Theme Park Apprentice 7: Challenge 5

August 7, 2015, 8:44 PM

As a reminder, Challenge 4 is still going on and is due Saturday, August 8th at midnight. Please do not forget to submit an entry for that challenge.

Challenge 5: Save SeaWorld

The Challenge

SeaWorld, once one of the premier brands in the theme park industry, has come under some harsh criticism in recent times. In addition to media influence swaying public opinion on the use of captive animals for entertainment, the company has been facing financial difficulties, poor leadership, and lackluster response to recent additions. Due to your successes with previous challenges, the company has approached you for input. Your task is to create a five year plan for one of the SeaWorld properties, either a SeaWorld park (Orlando, San Antonio, or San Diego) or a Busch Gardens park (Tampa or Williamsburg). Your plan:

-Will cover the years 2016-2020
-Must include all announced projects for your selected park
-Should be kept to a reasonable and realistic budget
-May not deviate from the current themes of the park
-Should cover all important aspects and not just be a list of major attractions

The Proposal

Your proposal for this challenge should be 5-10 pages (not including pictures) and should include:

-The park you are creating the plan for
-A brief outline of the problems that are being addressed
-A full description of what will be done in each year (1-2 pages per year, as appropriate)
-A general description, but not a full in-depth report, of each notable new attraction, including rides, shows, exhibits, and restaurants (1-2 paragraphs per element)
-Anything else you feel will benefit your proposal

The Advice

-The SeaWorld parks are animal parks first and ride parks second. Make sure to keep this in mind when deciding on improvements.
-Conversely, the Busch Gardens parks are ride parks first and animal parks second. Your plan should reflect this.
-When describing individual elements of your plan (such as new attractions or restaurants), a description similar to what you would expect to see on the park’s website is acceptable. However, your description should cover the entire attraction, not just set up the premise.
-When considering the budget, just keep in mind that SeaWorld is not a place that can afford $20+ million additions on an annual basis. If you only include one or two major attractions (big roller coasters, E-ticket level dark rides, etc.) and don’t go overboard in the other years, your plan should be fine.

The Deadline

Due to the complexity of this challenge and to allow time for the redemption challenge, all competitors will have two weeks to complete the challenge. All proposals must be submitted by midnight on Saturday, August 22nd. Those participating in the redemption challenge may start working on on this proposal concurrently with the redemption challenge, but may not be informed of their status in the game until Monday, August 17th.

Replies (22)

August 7, 2015, 10:55 PM

Just for clarifications sake...

Do we have to choose the Busch Gardens parks or the SeaWorld parks, or can we have a go at Discovery Cove, one of the water parks owned by SeaWorld or Sesame Place?

And I'm assuming that "advice" is just suggestions, we can run completely counter to the advice if we have a "better" idea, but we must have an extremely good reason and plan for doing so...? But how about something that would go so far as conceding to the demands of the environmentalist and putting thrill rides in their place?

August 8, 2015, 3:53 AM

So, when will the redemption challenge be posted?

August 8, 2015, 7:41 AM

I'm just waiting on the others to have their final read through, then I think we'll post it.

August 8, 2015, 8:42 AM

Echoing Jeff's sentiments a bit, especially regarding the environmentalist issue. As a specific example, California's government has been debating a bill to outlaw the keeping of orcas in captivity, which would force SeaWorld San Diego's business model to change dramatically. This bill may not pass, but it seems a realistic element to consider in a proposal.

Regarding E-Tickets, what would be the ranking of different types of live shows? Like, Fantasmic vs. Waterworld vs. Mystery Lodge vs. Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies? Thanks.

Edited: August 8, 2015, 12:05 PM

The impression I'm getting from my fellow judges is it must remain a marine animal park, but if you want to reinterpret what that means, thats up to you.

It could mean that you abandon Whales but use some other animal. If we take the unrelated Sea World Australia as an example, it has a combination of Rides, and animal attractions, but those animals are perhaps better suited - in size at least - for a park than a whale. They rely on Seals, Dolphins, Pengins, Shark and Polar Bears for their animal contingent. I'd be happy for you to do this, you keep the essence that is Sea World (A Marine Mammal Park) but are just replacing one troublesome attraction with something more suitable.

But abandoning animals to just go for some generic park with a loose sea theme or animatronic animals is too far. Whatever you do, it has to still meet the description of "Sea World".

Edited: August 8, 2015, 12:16 PM

Jeff, we're going to say theme parks only. The three SeaWorld parks, the two Busch Gardens parks, and Sesame Place are all okay. Discovery Cove is more of a specialty attraction than a theme park and waterparks require a very different investment strategy so we're going to say no to using those.

Yes, the advice section is suggestions that you may choose to follow or disregard. If you've got an idea you feel is better and you've got the justification for backing it up, you can give it a try. However, I will say this: Most guide books label SeaWorld as a marine mammal park or an animal theme park. If you plan to make alterations so drastic that those labels are no longer valid, you are probably creating a plan for failure. Remember that SeaWorld operated strictly as a marine life park from the mid 60s to the late 90s, so removing the marine life element would be such a drastic change that it could kill the park. If you want to change what animals are on display, that is absolutely fine. Removing the animal component completely, however, would be extremely risky and you better have excellent justification for it.

Douglas, a nighttime spectacular like Fantasmic would definitely be an E-ticket show. Something like Waterworld would probably be considered an E-ticket as well. I'd put Mystery Lodge in the D-ticket category and Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies as B- or C-ticket. The shows SeaWorld has now would all fall under the C- or D-ticket categories (mostly D-ticket).

August 10, 2015, 9:01 PM

Is there a limit as to how many pictures we can use?

August 11, 2015, 12:39 AM

After conferring with the other judges, due to the complexity of this challenge we've decided to raise the maximum limit for pictures to 10. However, this does not mean you must use 10 pictures in your proposal. Use however many or however few you feel are necessary without exceeding the limit, but do not stick filler pictures in your proposal.

August 11, 2015, 7:14 PM

Thanks for the clarification! That doesn't include the footer and header, correct? Also, is there still only one video allowed?

August 11, 2015, 7:31 PM

Correct, that is in addition to the header and footer. We're going to stick with one video, but if you want to do what Jeff did last challenge and give up your pictures for a second video we won't disqualify you.

Edited: August 12, 2015, 7:43 AM

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SeaWorld San Diego has a “whale” of a challenge. Despite discounts, its attendance for last year was down 2%, and net income down a whopping 85%. Public opinion is floundering, beached, in the doldrums. Criticism mounts, thanks in part to Blackfish. Regardless of SeaWorld’s generally exemplary standing among zoos/aquaria, image is what matters, and image is poor. As some analysts have put it, “As consumers become more sensitive to animal welfare issues, the type of entertainment SeaWorld offers may be losing its luster.” Perhaps most alarming, in Sacramento the “California Captive Orca Welfare and Safety Act” could outlaw killer whale captivity altogether.

Under new CEO Joel Manby, SeaWorld is attempting theirrecovery, but the “Ask SeaWorld” PR efforts are not going “swimmingly.” SeaWorld falls short of its promise. The park’s iconic whale shows, founded in the 1960s under altruistic motives, are now an albatross. Science marches on. Old ways become unsustainable. The difficulty is when altruism becomes profit-based, and cannot evolve. SeaWorld San Diego needs to become proactive in redefining its business model. Their newly-announced SeaWorld 2020 five-year plan is simple yet ambitious: Release (or relocate) all captive whales, and strengthen SeaWorld’s offerings as a theme park.

At the core of the SeaWorld 2020 plan is a three-pronged approach: CONSERVATION, PUBLIC RELATIONS, and THEME PARKS. Each department works semi-autonomously, with healthy communication. While this plan is meant specifically for SeaWorld San Diego, it may apply to other SeaWorld parks with only minor adjustment.

Conservation is at the heart of SeaWorld 2020. In order to improve SeaWorld’s animal-based operations, management needs a very bold strategy: Cooperation with SeaWorld’s most outspoken critics. Their independent involvement with SeaWorld’s in-house team allows for quicker identification and response to any issues. The use of whales and dolphins in performances is phased out, even while Sea Lions Live and Pets Ahoy remain. All conservation policies are reappraised according to recent marine biology findings. Animals on display in SeaWorld San Diego are used for education, not entertainment.

Conservation’s largest project, and the backbone of SeaWorld 2020, is the SeaWorld Sanctuarium. The Sanctuarium is an off-site sea pen. This is the single most crucial tool in orca rehabilitation. Designed as though the anti-captivity bill were a reality, the SeaWorld Sanctuarium is a self-sustaining non-profit enterprise, largely separate from SeaWorld parks. It is a multi-million dollar project, funded in part by grants and foundations, as envisioned by orca expert Naomi Rose. The SeaWorld Sanctuarium offers superior research opportunities compared to confinement conditions. This public, multi-agency habitat aims to inspire future generations, and become a crown jewel in SeaWorld’s scientific identity.

Recent public relations efforts by SeaWorld have been defensive, which in turn adds fuel to critics’ fire. With improvements on SeaWorld’s immediate horizon, Public Relations highlights those accomplishments instead. SeaWorld San Diego can again control the conversation, and become a model for other parks (both SeaWorld and marine mammal parks in general).

The PR campaign will exist within the boundaries of SeaWorld San Diego and beyond. Both the SeaWorld Sanctuarium and the overall SeaWorld 2020 plan become major talking points. Much effort is put into attracting locals back to the park.

With some of SeaWorld’s flagship attractions (the One Ocean and Dolphin Days shows) on the chopping block, it is in SeaWorld San Diego’s interests to redefine itself as a true theme park destination on a par with anything else in the region. This must be done without abandoning SeaWorld’s “oceanarium” identity. Limitations are created by the Coastal Commission and the city of San Diego (30 foot building limitations, at least 75% of attractions must be educational). Animals remain the park’s focus, along with a strengthened emphasis on a conservation theme.

Such changes are by no means insurmountable; look to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (formerly Marine World) in Northern California, and the unrelated Sea World in Australia. The SeaWorld 2020 plan will debut multiple new attractions on an annual basis. To strengthen the idea of SeaWorld as a “theme park” without overspending or cutting into its core, every year will see the unveiling of a new “themed land.” Each land is inspired by a marine habitat or related concept. These overlays give a sense of organization to SeaWorld’s seemingly random layout, and strengthen existing ideas. With the exception of the Exploration Reef entry area and the Sesame Street Bay of Play kiddie playground, in five years all of SeaWorld San Diego will be altered.

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Our team begins hand-in-hand with SeaWorld’s critics who are willing to help. (Extremists who advocate closing SeaWorld altogether will not be humored.) SeaWorld begins to formulate a reasonable means of resolving any issues in park practices. Conservation policies are continually reappraised. At this early juncture, much effort goes into simply improving facilities, with an eye towards improving animals’ conditions.

Preliminary research begins on the SeaWorld Sanctuarium. The search begins for a suitable location off the coast of California, in cold waters, preferably within a reasonable distance from San Diego. Multiple public charities aid in this process, to make it a more financially attractive option.

Public Relations become proactive, touting future improvements. With the SeaWorld 2020 plan just getting off the ground, efforts begin by highlighting past SeaWorld accomplishments, somehow never previously mentioned by PR. These old successes include providing charitable aid to Keiko (Free Willy) in Mexico City, helping with Exxon Valdez cleanup efforts, and aiding in animal rescue. Such messages appear online, in TV ads, newspapers, and other media.

The team also unites with Theme Parks to develop a park-wide series of video screens, embedded within the park’s thematic décor. These 10-foot-wide screens will be capable of relaying SeaWorld’s message directly to visitors. Content changes easily and regularly. The screens even have attraction applications to come!

SeaWorld commemorates their 2020 plan with a series of collectible pins, posters and so forth, with new designs every year. This encourages return visits, and gets guests involved with the conservation conversation.

With short lead time, SeaWorld’s 2016 additions are relatively modest. The park’s newest “land,” POLAR ZONES, is a wintry wonderland which unites Wild Arctic, Penguin Encounter, Pets Stadium, and the Nautilus Pavilion. Arctic and Antarctic habitats both feature. Unthemed buildings are redone as ice caverns or polar research stations.

The Wild Arctic flight simulator receives a major refurbishment, upgraded to HD with in-theater effects and an all-new film. It reemerges as Wild Arctic: Megalodon. Guests fly in a helicopter studying glaciers when melting ice releases Megalodon, the largest shark in Earth’s history! A hair-raising struggle follows, as the helicopter is dragged underwater in the beast’s jaws – water sprays inside the theater. The Megalodon is finally reburied under fresh ice. A post-ride exhibit covers extinct sea animals, plus Wild Arctic’s popular polar bears and beluga whales.

Nearby is a brand-new family attraction, Twirlpool, a water-based teacups ride. Massive, multi-hued seashells spin over a pool, while riders target each other with water cannons. This is a variation on Mack Rides’ Twist ‘n’ Splash model, and is the lone SeaWorld 2020 offering without an educational component.

A new Christmas celebration, ‘Tis the SEAson, begins this year. Shows, screens and trappings exchange ocean tides for yuletide. Notably, Wild Arctic introduces a new seasonal overlay, Wild Arctic: North Pole. Guests fly to Santa’s workshop and join in his deliveries on Christmas Eve. Reindeer feature prominently in a temporary animal exhibit post-ride.

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By now, SeaWorld’s critics have identified all problematic practices. Efforts are underway to cease the following: separating orca families; forced breeding in captivity; forced “circus-style” performances by both killer whales and dolphins. To this final end, the One Ocean and Dolphin Days shows shall be completely phased out by year’s end, with new, inoffensive offerings to appear in their place. As stated above, SeaWorld’s other animal shows (featuring sea lions and rescue pets, among others) are not considered an issue, and continue to perform.

As conservation improves, Public Relations increases SeaWorld’s transparency. Third party reporting agencies are welcomed into the park, free to publish any findings, good or ill. Bad press spurs immediate solutions. Being seen as responsive and accountable will do wonders for SeaWorld’s image.

Outreach programs begin in schools, libraries, and other public venues throughout Southern California.

With the orca and dolphin shows due to end, Public Relations reaches out to fans and encourages them to enjoy these attractions one last time.

Here there be dragons! SEAS OF LEGEND, a land covering sea monsters and oceanic myths, debuts in the southeastern corner surrounding Journey to Atlantis. Buildings take on timeless features of Norse and Greek seafarers. References abound to the Kraken, Hydra, Bermuda Triangle, and similar concepts.

Headlining this area is a major Journey to Atlantis refurbishment, which turns a relatively bare-boned flume-coaster into a fully-themed premier water ride. Improved story elements describe how Atlantis could not live in harmony with Mother Nature, and was swallowed by the sea. Guests get a taste of the gods’ wrath in two major drops. The lagoon between towers is enclosed in a Grecian temple, allowing for updated special effects from the Orlando version.

The under-utilized Animal Connections building gives way to a new animal exhibit, Mermaid Cove. Here guests astound at real live mermaids – actually appealing cast members in bikinis – while they learn how this myth came to be. In true SeaWorld fashion, animals are the centerpiece – in this case, manatees and dugongs, which sailors oft mistook for mermaids in days gone by.

Nearby is Merman Grill, a counter service restaurant and lounge overlooking the exhibit. An underwater window is a favorite site for spotting “mermaid” performers, especially with male guests. Mystic Salvage peddles legendary treasures and jewelry, located within the wreckage of Jason’s famed Argonaut.

After dark, screens park-wide feature Bio-Luminaria. Described as a “nighttime ambience attraction,” soothing sea lights and gentle music envelop visitors throughout the park. Bioluminescent imagery warms the entire park with its glow. At intervals, dedicated short “climaxes” play at different locations, each meant to compliment that area. Polar Zones displays the Aurora Borealis, while the tropical section (see below) boasts glowing plankton.

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Midway through the 5-year plan, a location has been settled on for the SeaWorld Sanctuarium, and construction commences.

By now, all whale and dolphin shows have ceased. The orcas have been moved (for now) into their Blue World Project habitat. This $10 million endeavor has already been announced, and is not considered a part of the SeaWorld 2020 plan. Cetacean space is now doubled; whales are made available to the public without the need for shows. The dolphins remain in their Dolphin Point exhibit.

The big new Public Relations campaign of 2018 is the SoCal Sea-Deal. Park ticket discounts are offered to all Southern California residents, similar to what other regional parks have done. While a potential loss leader, the SoCal Sea-Deal allows locals to witness the new-and-improving SeaWorld, and spread word-of-mouth.

The SoCal Sea-Deal includes multi-day vacation packages, designed to bring L.A. and Orange County residents to the San Diego area for an entire weekend. SeaWorld partners with other local attractions, including Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, and the USS Midway.

The Blue World Project habitat defines the COASTAL SHORELINE land. The southwestern area surrounding Dolphin Point and Shamu Stadium now resembles the coastline of Puget Sound, a famed cetacean hotspot. Buildings suggest the longhouses of the Pacific Northwest. Totem poles and other carvings depict killer whales, suggesting the natives’ deep reverence for nature. Every detail relates back to the orcas, SeaWorld’s shining stars, so that even once whales are removed from the park, their legacy remains.

The orca habitat connects visitors with the star animals. Glass partitions put guests eye-to-eye with the whales in a naturalistic setting lightyears beyond any zoo. While not technically a part of the SeaWorld 2020 plan, this amazing space sets the template for other features in Coastal Shoreline.

Perhaps the greatest hurdle in the SeaWorld 2020 plan is replacing the discontinued One Ocean whale show, once the flagship attraction. Ocean Commotion, an all-new musical stunt show spectacular, premieres in Shamu Stadium! Possibly the plan’s greatest E-ticket, Ocean Commotion is a pageant depicting orcas’ lifecycle and community with song, dance and color.

Imagine Universal’s Waterworld joined with Broadway’s Lion King, told with SeaWorld’s heart. Whales are thrillingly depicted through projections, special water effects, and amazing costuming. Performers inhabit animal outfits and massive, whale-sized puppets, stylized after British Columbian artwork. Jet skis perform jaw-dropping stunts. Guests get splashed. This 25-minute extravaganza features music and lyrics by Robert Lopez, the celebrated songsmith behind Frozen and Book of Mormon. Ocean Commotion is a showstopper, amongst the best theme park shows produced not only by SeaWorld, but by anybody!

Adding to the fun is Spill Squad (presented by The Humane Society), an interactive dark ride from Mack Rides designed for the entire family. Unlike other screen-based shooters, which can be competitive and violent, Spill Squad emphasizes cooperation and conservation. Fireboats sail along the Alaskan coastline and aid in clean-up following a massive oil tanker spill. Practical sets combine with interactive 3D screens. Guests spray hoses to remove oil, revealing a pristine wilderness underneath. The final screen depicts the tranquil seas at sunset, where orcas cavort. Interactive exhibits following the ride explain the clean-up process, and provide one-on-one time with birds and marine animals which have been rescued from real-life spills.

Shamu Smoothies rounds out the new land, providing drinks and snacks in a weathered lighthouse overlooking the waters.

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Construction of the SeaWorld Sanctuarium continues on schedule. Animal treatment in the park is at an all-time high. Animal rescue and rehabilitation is done as needed.

Without major challenges at home, Conservation starts to focus on San Antonio and Orlando. This is a forward-thinking move to strengthen the chain as a whole.

The SoCal Sea-Deal finishes its second and final year. Public Relations ramps up focus for 2020’s year-long celebration.

The park’s northwestern edge becomes TROPICAL CURRENTS, celebrating equatorial oceans and freshwater. New landscaping around Shipwreck Rapids suggests an Amazonian jungle, with colorful Brazilian cottages and thatched huts. The nearby piranha aquarium ties in nicely. The Freshwater Wears shop opens in a dilapidated boathouse, full of supplies needed for upriver travel. Looking towards Mission Bay, Manta and Cirque Stadium are redressed as Caribbean beaches, done in the relaxing style of a Bahaman resort.

One new ride opens. Aquatic Animal Voyages is SeaWorld’s marine equivalent to the world-famous African Tram tour in nearby San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Biofuel-powered boats carry passengers along canals throughout the entire park. Special views are afforded of both animal habitats and backstage veterinary space. Live guides speak about the animals, SeaWorld’s efforts, and conservation. Touch screen displays inside the boats allow guests to learn at their own pace. An educational attraction such as Aquatic Animal Voyages is something only a world-class marine park such as SeaWorld can offer.

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The SeaWorld 2020 plan climaxes gloriously with the grand opening of the SeaWorld Sanctuarium! This state-of-the-art sea pen becomes the new home for SeaWorld’s 10 orcas, which are relocated over the course of the year. (Given the social needs of killer whales, specimens from other parks are slowly introduced at later dates.) The now-vacant Blue World Project habitat is opened up to SeaWorld’s dolphins, barring the unexpected introduction of a massive new marine animal. (Should the opportunity arise, management desperately wants to make this lagoon the home of the world’s first captive giant squid.)

It is a hard fact about SeaWorld’s cetaceans that only a fraction of them will ever be able to swim in the open oceans. Those which can are mostly the older whales, born in the wilds. Any orcas bred by SeaWorld sadly cannot adapt, and must remain in the Sanctuarium. These younger whales are expected to survive another two or three decades, meaning SeaWorld shall not be forced to do without its iconic species for quite some time.

The five-year campaign kicks into full gear! For the entire year, SeaWorld is rechristened as SeaWorld 2020, which suggests changes and revitalizes the brand. Completed conservation efforts get full attention on major news outlets. Transportation of orcas to the Sanctuarium dominates live television. Special media days occur in the park, with press conferences and souvenir promotions.

Additionally, for the entirety of 2020, SeaWorld San Diego promises to donate 10% of their profits to aquatic animal rescue charities.

The SeaWorld Sanctuarium, though physically distant from SeaWorld San Diego, has value to the theme park. The Sanctuarium Discovery Center is opened to the public, in a respectful and limited means which ensures the whales are not disturbed. This is technically a separate admissions park, San Diego’s answer to Orlando’s Discovery Cove. Tickets are all-inclusive, and far more affordable than their East Coast sibling’s. The Discovery Center’s focus is on research; visitors are given hands-on opportunities to work with scientists.

Depending on how far the Sanctuarium is from San Diego, park guests may access it through upcharge Sanctuarium Tours. SeaWorld’s fleet of boats and helicopters is also used year round for Whale Watching Excursions. Gray whales may be seen off the coast of San Diego December through April, while blue whales appear May through November. Sea World Australia has had much success with similar offerings.

Back in San Diego, OPEN WATERS is the final themed land. Shark Encounter, the Sea Lion and Dolphin Stadiums, and surrounding areas are rethemed to the untamed ocean itself. Screens display footage of the endless blue, and speakers play the soothing sounds of waves. Wherever possible, buildings are redressed as coral reefs and barren rocks. When not, classic ships at sea.

Many of Open Waters’ attractions replace underutilized facilities. Our Lonely Ocean reskins the Mission Bay Theater, which now resembles an island on the back of an enormous sea turtle. Inside is a yearlong exhibit dedicated to SeaWorld 2020’s achievements, as well as a gathering space for special annual events. This interior is earmarked for future ride development once promotions wane.

The big celebration unveils one final E-ticket. High Tide (presented by Discovery Channel) opens where Dolphin Stadium once stood. (Dolphins may still be seen at Dolphin Point in Coastal Shoreline.) High Tide is a Mack Rides log flume into the depths of the ocean, climaxing with a 50’ freefall simulating waves hitting the shore. True, High Tide exceeds San Diego’s 30’ construction limit. This is allowable by an exemption for non-roller coaster rides, especially those with strong educational components.

High Tide certainly has that! The entire flume is built into an all-new, world-class aquarium. “Logs” – scientific research pods – traverse underwater tunnels, fully immersing riders in a coral sanctuary teeming with life. Guests begin their journey along High Tide’s exterior breakwater cliffs, at water level in a vibrant tidal basin piled high with crabs, urchins, starfish and mollusks. A drop down a whirlpool trench deposits pods in the coral kingdom, the ride’s fabulous centerpiece. One further vortex plunges guests into pitch black, the deep sea which is home to bizarre glowing monstrosities such as the lanternfish, viperfish and anglerfish. A final lift hill carries pods back to the sunlit surface, where the 50’ splashdown polishes things off. Post-ride, guests discover new views of the aquarium, to explore at their leisure.

Finally, Bayview Bistro is a high-end table-service restaurant. Brian Malarkey, San Diego’s celebrity chef, presents a bold menu with modern twists on classic seafood favorites. Diners relax in a luxury yacht setting which looks out onto Mission Bay, a perfect place to unwind as the sun sets at day’s end. Malarkey incorporates his patented Social Dining Experience, creating an intimate and memorable meal which competes with the best in the industry. Fine dining is a new horizon for SeaWorld, and a valuable addition to their offerings.

The themed lands provide a roadmap for further development. SeaWorld San Diego believes that Seas of Legend in particular has great E-ticket potential. The park’s remaining whale infrastructure can either be reutilized for new animal exhibits, or redeveloped as rides. SeaWorld stands tall as an ambassador for education, research and fun. Its killer whales, though relocated, remain an icon. Twenty-first century theme park guests will appreciate the company’s rededicated approach to conservation.

SeaWorld San Diego is not made perfect by the SeaWorld 2020 plan. Instead, it is put in an ideal position to continually grow and improve in the coming century. Conservation remains an ongoing effort, and policies set over the past five years inform future decisions. Contingency plans are made to anticipate controversies to come. SeaWorld San Diego becomes a sterling example for not only other SeaWorld parks, but for all oceanariums worldwide. With hard work and intelligence, the future can look bright for the brand. This is the bluest horizon of all.

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Edited to remove non-functioning links.

Edited: August 21, 2015, 4:33 PM

When trying to solve actual problems, it is always important to start with the one needing the most help and then work your way from there. Based on attendance, customer perception, and company expectations, the SeaWorld Entertainment park that needs the most help is SeaWorld San Antonio.

All three of the SeaWorld parks have their own unique issues based on where they are. SeaWorld Orlando has to complete against the toughest theme park arms race that the world has ever seen. SeaWorld San Diego has to deal with an environment of extreme activism and calls to release their animals back into the wild, with threats coming from not only the environmentalists themselves, but as high up as from the state government. SeaWorld San Antonio (SWSA) has to deal with a region that is not a typical hot spot of tourism, and then compete against a nearby Six Flags park and the top rated water park in the world in the oppressive summer heat of Texas.

The San Antonio SeaWorld park is the least themed and has the fewest amount of attractions of any of the other parks in the SeaWorld Entertainment portfolio. While it would be easy to say that the San Antonio park needs a bunch of new attractions and then sit back and watch the guests show up in droves, the actual problems of SeaWorld San Antonio (SWSA) run much deeper than what a horde of shiny new attractions will fix.

It is important to know exactly what you are dealing with when it comes to reforming a park. Some research was done scouring online reviews of SeaWorld San Antonio in order to get a good representation of what the guests think of the park. The following are the results in no particular order:

1. Dated tickets are not refundable (entrance, front of line, food)
2. Trouble getting in and out of the parking lot
3. Problems with too many specialized lines and little signage to show what line is for what service
4. Not enough to do
5. Killer Whales and Dolphins in captivity make people sad
6. Lack of shade and misters in queues
7. Rude Staff
8. Unknowledgeable staff
9. Lack of hands-on attractions
10. Lack of kiddie attractions
11. Park acts like the patrons are always wrong
12. Excessive amount of time to get through the entrance line
13. Gross bathrooms
14. High cost of food
15. Poor quality of food
16. Fix the website so that it will only sell non-refundable tickets for days the park is actually open
17. Serious lack of queue management
18. Too long of a wait for essentials like food and special services
19. $20 parking is too steep
20. Too much walking between attractions
21. Employees act like seasonal employees…which they are…
22. Rumors of animal abuse
23. Park is too expensive for the amount of things to do.
24. Too many contradicting options on the website for admission, it’s not clear what the actual prices are.
25. Season passes on the payment plan automatically renew, and then are non-refundable.

It would help to categorize these issues to make them more understandable.
Customer service issues: 8 total (Lines 1, 7, 8, 11, 16, 21, 24, 25)
Public perception: 7 total (Lines 5, 14, 15, 19, 20, 22, 23)
Lack of staffing: 3 total (Lines 2, 12, 13)
Lack of attractions: 3 total (Lines 4, 9, 10)
Lack of guest guidance (which could also be considered customer service or staffing issues): 2 total (Lines 3, 17)
Lack of customer facing infrastructure: 2 total (Lines 6, 18)

While it would be easy to make the un-researched guess that more people complain about Shamu being forced to perform for crowds, it turns out that more people are complaining about the horrendous parking issues, time to get through the front gate, the general length and time spent in lines, and the food situation, before they get around to the killer whale issue. We can then draw the conclusion that there is much more to fixing this park than giving Shamu and friends a pink slip and getting more rides. Surprising as well is the guest perception that SeaWorld doesn’t need to compete with Disney & Universal style theming, and that guests would much rather have shaded areas instead of immersive theming. This seems to somewhat tally with the public’s lukewarm response to the new Antarctica ride in Orlando. At the same time, it seems that what is really setting the SeaWorld parks in a new direction is the discovery that people want to get hands on with the wildlife in the park. Swimming with the sharks, dolphins, stingrays is jumping in popularity and touch pools seem to be what the public is aching for despite the fact that the San Diego park just got rid of theirs. With these discoveries in mind, we now need to discuss how to fix the park.

Customer Service Issues
A quick search on Amazon for “customer service books” will return nearly 60,000 results, so it is not like the topic hasn’t been discussed into oblivion. In an industry noted for players like Disney being too generous and needing to dial it back after their customer service systems were routinely abused, it seems disturbing that an elite theme park would find itself at the other end of the spectrum.

Non-Refundable Tickets
There were a bunch of issues surrounding non-refundable tickets, and this is really easy to fix. Officially state that tickets are non-refundable, but in all actuality, make the ticket refundable within reason. If someone buys a season pass, and then the person dies before they process the season pass, refund it. Give your customer service people plenty of leeway on this one. If a guest makes a valid reasonable request to refund an unused ticket, refund it. Don’t argue about it, just do it. The new customer service angle should be that the park wants to earn that admission price. If we’re not earning it, we don’t want to scam you out of your money. The fact that the website on a monthly pay system will automatically start charging you for the next season’s pass and then is not refundable looks and sounds like a scam. If the park has not earned the season pass from the guest, then refund their money and try harder next time. The same goes with meal passes and front of the line passes, if guests buy these and then decide that they don’t need them, refund their money on unused tickets. I would even take it a step further and say that if the front of the line pass is turned in mid-day, then prorate it and refund some money back to the guest. If the park is not providing value for these services, then the park doesn’t deserve any money for it. Since we are getting away from blaming the guest, we are also going to reinstitute the rain check program, giving guests a free pass if rain ruined the day (although there will be limits on this to try and keep away from abuse).

Rude Staff
This leads into another huge customer service issue: there are many complaints that the staff is rude and unknowledgeable. How can a major theme park let this happen? The blame here falls squarely on the shoulders of the managers, HR staff, and the employees themselves. The good news here is that this can also be easily fixed. The park needs to adopt a reasoned approach of the guest is always right instead of the guest is always wrong. As more of a regional park in San Antonio, SeaWorld needs to realize that upsetting the guests is exactly the way to have them never come back again. At least in San Diego and Orlando, there will always be more tourists that will go to the park and inflate the numbers, but San Antonio doesn’t have that luxury. Therefore, the customer needs to be right, or least negotiated with. Staff needs to be sent to Disney style classes that teach them to always smile, always be helpful, and always look around for opportunities to help the guests have a better experience. If an ice cream falls on the ground, a staff member better be working on getting the guest a new ice cream, at the same time, another staff member should be working on getting the sticky mess from the ice cream cleaned up. There is a Golden Ticket award for the friendliest staff, and SeaWorld San Antonio needs to be on track to winning that award within 3 years. If winning that award means that they need to send park managers to the top three parks that are constantly vying for that award, so be it. If SeaWorld needs to headhunt and hire away the customer service managers from Holiday World and relocate them to Texas, make it happen.

Public Face
Within the SeaWorld system, the animals are the stars. But since an animal can’t talk, it is up to the trainers to be the face and public relations staff to the public. The trainers need to attend public speaking classes and learn how to exude an always positive and upbeat image. The trainers will need to be the most approachable people in the park and the most knowledgeable people on the staff. They need to know their animal companions inside and out and be prepared for any type of odd question a member of the public can throw at them. The trainers need to be the caring, empathetic face of SeaWorld. Joel Manby, the new CEO that was hired away from Hershends, brings with him the family approach. This includes not just the employees and trainers, but the animals as well. To instill this notion of family we need to give every employee a little wager in the game, thus every employee above an entry level position should be incentivized with stock options. If the company does well, everyone makes money; if the company does poorly, everyone loses money. It also gives the entry level people the incentive to work extremely hard to earn a promotion out of the entry level positions.

The Website
The advance purchase ticketing website needs to be fixed so that it is much more upfront about total costs and in particular about short term ticket costs versus season passes. The website should be designed to give the guest the best discount instead of suckering them into something they don’t need. Since the website takes a login, the website will know when they get a return purchaser. If a potential guest has already purchased a single day pass, then it should discount a season pass by a certain amount in order to entice them into making more visits to the park.

Season Passes
The season pass system needs to be redesigned. SeaWorld San Antonio is one of many places that have really cheap season passes that then fill up the park with locals who keep one time visitors and tourists from getting a good look at the park. Season passes will be immediately discounted by 25%, but will only be good for free admission on non-peek days. On high traffic days, a season pass holder can pay $10-$25 to get into the park (based on how busy the park is expected to be). This will keep SeaWorld from becoming a daycare provider and rowdy teenager watcher. This is a much better system than the SoCal passes that Disney does, as season pass holders can still get into the park on peek days, but at a greatly discounted rate.

Seasonal Employees
Part of the problem with SWSA employees is that they are seasonal. The park is only open on the weekends starting the first week of September, and then closes right after the New Year. The park then opens in February, presumably only doing weekends until Spring Break. But, during this time, all of the animals still need to be fed. Full time employees are going to be much more engaged than weekend employees who probably already worked 40 hours on a different job. To keep the park open, there will need to be a concerted effort from the marketing team to sell SeaWorld San Antonio as the best place to be during the fall season, getting the message out to all areas of the United States and Canada that are a foot deep in snow. Outreach programs to schools in Texas will also go a long way toward filling the park with guests during the time that they usually close down. A series of week-long camps for different age groups could also fill the park, although it may require closing the park to the public. Either way, the park is open, making money, servicing guests, and keeping a great deal of the staff at full employment.

This will reduce the amount of time that the park is closed down to just 6 full weeks, instead of half of the year only doing weekends. And I have a plan for what the employees can do for those 6 weeks.

Deep Dive for SeaWorld
After the park has been buttoned up for the off 6 weeks, the employees are going to break into groups and then spend the next 3 days brainstorming ideas to improve the park. Some of these ideas will be cheap efficiencies, like moving a soda fountain closer to the cash register to reduce the amount of time it takes to fill a drink, thus improving the throughput of the line. Other ideas will be huge blue sky ideas. But the key here is that no one knows about these efficiencies better than the employees who deal with the annoying issues on a regular basis. If you have seen the Undercover Boss show, it is apparent that most people have improvement ideas, and it is disappointing that only those employees who have agree to be on camera get the benefit of the rewards at the end of the program. Typically these ideas will be 5 minute videos that need to talk about the need, the irritation point, and the solution…handheld cell phone videos are fine, and there will be some efforts made to assist non-technical employees with finishing and editing their videos. Deep Dive for SeaWorld will have $50,000 in cash prizes set aside and another $25,000 in reserve if needed. If your idea is implemented, you win money…an amount based on the amount of efficiency it attains, more if your idea can be utilized in the other SeaWorld Entertainment parks. After 3 days of brainstorming and presentation of ideas to the executive leadership team of the park, the employees will then be awarded prizes after a day or two of deliberation. After Deep Dive for SeaWorld has been finished in San Antonio, all except the bare minimum of staff to keep the animals happy will then spend a week at the different SeaWorld Entertainment parks, and cover for employees at those other parks that want to participate in Deep Dive for SeaWorld. The other parks will have their own independent prize pools. Not only will we gain grass roots improvements, but we will also be keeping the employees working during the off season, particularly with travel, new experiences, new friendships, and new views on how things should be done that will strengthen the bonds across the entire company while pushing for incremental improvements at all of the parks. I know companies that do these programs (Google, for one, although I believe they call it “Hackfest”), and it is worth every penny they invest into it.

Staffing Issues
Since we now have the employee situation figured out, it is extremely important that they are then doing the right things. It is shameful for a company to make it difficult for guests to spend money. If guests want to spend money, you need to enable them to do it quickly and before they change their mind. Such things as the parking lot being a chaotic mess, excessive waits to get through the entrance area and into the park, and gross bathrooms are all well within the park’s power to fix, we just need to have the right staffing and the coordination to get them done. SWSA needs to get rid of the free-for-all in the parking lot. At $20 for parking, I would expect my car to get parked for me and not have to sit in some ridiculous 45 minute traffic jam while every car jockeys for a better spot. Parking efficiency is born out of organization on the staff’s part. Cones need to be put down in the parking lot to guide cars to the correct spot. Parking lot attendants then split the traffic and fill two rows at the same time. Parking lot attendants then make sure that every space is filled while making sure that every vehicle is pulled in far enough to not impeded traffic down the aisle. Most high attendance parks do this, it is time for SWSA to start acting like a high attendance park.

Front Gate
Once guests get to the front gate, the bag check and ticket taking needs to run quickly and smoothly. There is no excuse for another 30 minute wait for someone to take your ticket (particularly after asking them to sit in a 45 minute traffic jam in the parking lot). Get staff members where they need to go and call in reinforcements if they get backed up. We will never win the Golden Ticket for Friendliest Staff if we can’t get the line to get into the park down to under 5 minutes. While we should never go with specialized lines if we can avoid it, I think this is one of those cases where a couple of bag-less express lanes could be used as long as they were permanently and boldly marked as such.

Special Services
Once directly inside of the gates, there have been complaints about how long it takes to redeem front of the line passes and meal tickets. This is particularly egregious since you are forcing people to waste their time in the park to wait on SeaWorld’s staff. These counters need to be fully staffed whenever there is a line. If that means that we need to hire more people or have workers at other in-park facilities help with the front gate, then the park managers need to make it happen. All options need to be available at all customer service lines. In addition to this, if certain services can be taken care of much more quickly as a separate line, they will be separated for efficiency but not to remove the availability from the main customer service windows. The current situation of wasting 30 minutes in the wrong line needs to go away. For items that merely require the validating of a ticket and the giving of a wrist band, have a porter working the customer service line that can pull those guests out of the customer service lines and to a nearby stand. A stand will be able to scale up and down much faster than a booth. Cedar Point does this with their front of the line pass system. Although the real takeaway here is that if a booth specializes in a particular function, this needs to be declared loudly and boldly to keep guests from getting into the wrong line and then have a porter talking to guests and making sure that guests are exactly where they need to be.

But this goes much further than just the customer service lines, SWSA needs to do a better job once people get into any line, be it for food, a ride, a show, or whatever. First, staff up the endpoint of lines. If you can’t staff up the line enough because the workers are getting massacred, then we need to manage the lines. As much as we can, split lines off into smaller segments, specialize is certain things, get the people with the long issues into separate lines where they are not hampering the progress of people with small issues. These lines need to be extremely well marked, as the days of people getting in the wrong lines are over. Since there are lines all over the place in the park, we need to institute line porters, specifically employees that monitor and manage lines. Since drinks are now free (more on this later), it would be perfectly acceptable for a line porter to fetch a drink or pull out a small pavilion tent to provide shade for people waiting in lines. These porters would also be in charge of making sure the people standing in line are in the correct line for the service or attraction that they need. In the case of food, every effort needs to be made to shorten lines and/or speed them up…this is a case of hindering people from spending money which is not acceptable. In the case of rides, shows, and attractions, shade and misters need to be available to fight the heat and keep the guests in proper working order. …And we’re bringing the mimes back. There was nothing better than the mimes amusing/harassing the audience as they waited for the show to start. In fact all of the shows and attractions need to have some sort of pre-show entertainment going on. Movie theaters figured this out a long time ago that the best thing to do with a captive audience is show promo videos and advertisements that make your company seem amazingly awesome, sell concessions, educate, make people laugh, and prep them for the show. It is expected, SeaWorld is going to do it. A guest sitting bored in a seat waiting for a show to start is a missed opportunity, and a chance to add value to the park.

Keeping a high use bathroom clean and presentable is more art than simply scrubbing it. If the regular staff can’t seem to get it done, hire some Disney/Universal staff and figure it out. If it requires remodeling the bathrooms, so be it. If it requires industrial grade Fabreeze and other stink suppressors, make it happen. If we need a dedicated cleaning person nearly living in the most used bathroom facilities, consider it done. A bathroom shows how much a company cares about details. If it is gross, particularly at a facility that cares for animals, it makes people think that the animals are as poorly taken care of as the bathrooms are. The Golden Ticket for the Cleanest Park is an award that should be easy to vie for if some serious effort is made into keeping the park clean and having pride in our work from the top down to the bottom. We need to work hard enough keeping SWSA clean that in 4 years, we will be a major contender for the Cleanest Park award…even though this award is mostly about guest perception.

Which leads us to…

Guest Perceptions

About now you are probably asking why Jeff is taking so long to get around to talking about new rides. Here’s why: a new ride will give you a spike in attendance, but if you have no way to retain that customer, then all you are going to get is just a spike and then the attendance will quickly go back down to slightly above its usual levels. A major new attraction is going to give you a second chance with your customers, an opportunity that you cannot squander. That is why we are talking about everything other than the rides…the rides and attractions are the easy part…these other issues are where you can permanently fix the issues with the park.

Too Expensive
Item number 23 on our list of issues with the park is: “Park is too expensive for the amount of things to do.” This is the kiss of death when it comes to any paid attraction. Sure, you can lower the price, but that doesn’t address the issue at all. The cost to get into SeaWorld for a single day with an online pre-purchase discount of $15, is $54. A single day ticket for nearby Six Flags Fiesta Texas is $49.99, so SeaWorld is not priced out of the market. The major difference is that a season pass for Six Flags is $72.99 and SeaWorld is $94.25 or $124.75 with the waterpark. But while SeaWorld is more expensive, it is not unreasonably so. What we have here is a perception of the park that is not good. A friend of mine last weekend went to a Shania Twain concert. He spent $135 each for some pretty nice seats. The concert lasted around 3 hours, and afterwards my friend proclaimed that it was worth every penny. So how does a three hour concert suddenly hold more value than a season pass at SeaWorld? It is all about perception. What people are really saying is that they didn’t have a good time at whatever price they paid. Shaking people off of this perception is going to be the key to saving the park.

Giving people a great time in the park regardless of how many rides they get on or how many shows they attend is going to be the key to showing value. One of the things that the park is going to do is an outreach program to veterans. Within 2 years, SeaWorld will be one of largest, and most desirable employers of veterans, particularly disabled veterans. In addition to the Disability Assistance Dog Training Facility (which we will talk more in depth about later), the veterans will be in the park showing animals. With the way guests have gravitated toward and are willing to pay top dollar for animal interactions, the veterans and other staff members will be in charge of animal interactions. Many animals, from snakes, to exotic birds, to rodents, to large spiders and bugs, to larger SeaWorld mainstays, will be sprinkled generously around the park for guest interactions. These will behave similarly to the character encounters at Disney parks. Guests will be free to get autographs from real American heroes while getting up close and personal with animals that you may rarely get the opportunity to meet close up. Shade will be provided for the presenter and canopies will be provided where lines form. This strategy will fix the perception that people have to walk too much to get to different attractions. This will in effect fill up the walkways with plenty of things to do, while increasing the perception of value.

Parking Fee
To also combat the perception of value, we are going to slash the parking fee. There will still be an option for $20, but it will be in covered parking with a valet service. Standard parking will be reduced to $10 on busy days and $5 on low attendance days.

Free Stuff
We are also going to take a page out of Holiday World’s book (hopefully in addition to their Golden Ticket for Friendliest Staff and Cleanest Park) and make all soda fountain drinks free, provide free sunscreen, and (since this is Texas we are talking about) free bug spray of a type that is going to be a little nicer on the environment and water supply than the regular stuff you get at the store. And again the perception of value goes up.

There have been complaints about the cost and quality of food at the park. A little bit of research shows that prices of food at the park are around 4 times what people would pay when not a captive audience. At that price point, anything is going to seem like low quality food. We are going consult with CEO Joel Manby’s old contacts at Dollywood to see if we can come up with a reasonable plan to seriously upgrade the food offering and make a play at competing for the Golden Ticket Award for Best Food, making it a three way race between SeaWorld San Antonio, Dollywood, and Knoebels. Again food cost and quality is a perception, and the battle lies in supplanting people’s perception with a new reality. People will pay a great deal for high quality food, so there should be new restaurants built that will go after a high end crowd with high end food, but even the regular counter service stations need to have high quality food. In addition to this, forcing people spend 4x the regular price seems a bit like extortion. We are going to reduce the prices to just over 2x the regular price and then reevaluate after we see what the guest impact is.

This also goes for items in the gift shops. We’re going to reduce prices from 3 times what people would be in the outside world to right at 2 times. Reducing prices by 1/3 will cause people to spend more money since the honest perception is that they are getting a deal. If Wal*Mart has taught us anything, it is that Americans know how to sniff out a deal and know when they are being suckered. Again, we don’t want to sucker the guests, we want them to have a wonderful day, and leave with the perception that SeaWorld San Antonio is a wonderful place that they can’t wait to go back to. We need to earn their trust, their admission fee, and their money throughout the day.

There is little that can be done about “rumors of animal abuse”, without giving guests uninterrupted access to backstage areas. So let’s give uninterrupted access to animal backstage areas via special walkthrough attractions that have one-way glass, thus not interrupting the trainers or the animals. As some renovations may be required in order to make the backstage areas presentable, these walkthroughs will be slowly rolled out over the years, with the target that within 5 years, all backstage areas that it is feasible to have a backstage walkthrough, will have one. We will start with the dolphin’s habitat, and build a backstage area into the Blue World Project for the killer whales when it is implemented in San Antonio.

The hardest public perception to work within is “Killer Whales and Dolphins in captivity make people sad.” There is progress already being made on this inside of the SeaWorld company to do battle against this perception. The Blue World Project is going to double the amount of surface area in the killer whale habitat, while giving the killer whales a water treadmill. This is already being developed for the San Diego SeaWorld park with plans to quickly turn it around with new findings and build more or less the same thing in Orlando and San Antonio. While most people understand that if SeaWorld were to release the killer whales back into the wild, they would be unable to survive, what they really object to is the use of killer whales to do public performances. If you were to ask the trainers of the Pets Ahoy! show, they would tell you that the dogs would prefer to perform, it is just the nature of a dog to want to be loved on, given attention, given adulation, and do it again and again. But what about killer whales and dolphins? Would they share the sentiment? Well, we’re going to find out. The killer whale and dolphin performance schedules are going to be scrapped. All of the killer whales and dolphins are going to be given a big button in their tanks. They are going to be taught that if they hit the button, it is 30 minutes to show time, just enough time to make an announcement over the park wide public address system and fill up the stadium. If the killer whales and dolphins decide that they don’t want to perform, they don’t have to. If we have a star stuck killer whale that never wants to leave the stage, then there will be back to back performances all day. The park will go out of its way to explain that this is the best for the animals to keep from exploiting them. There will be a camera with a view of the button that will run a constant feed to different points throughout the park, but particularly near the front gate and near the entrances of the different stadiums. Paired up with the backstage self-guided tours and extensive write-ups about how the system works, people will get to see killer whales and dolphins without the worry of exploiting them. This will also wind up being an experiment in killer whale and dolphin psychology, as it may become apparent that certain conditions may make the animals want to perform more often or not. If loud crowd noise keeps the animals from wanting to perform, steps can be taken to work within the parameters that the animals choose. But the big takeaway here is that if the animals choose not to perform, then they don’t have to, and will not forced to.

((continued in the next posting))

Edited: August 21, 2015, 4:30 PM

Using the TV for Good and Not Evil
Another way to fix the perception of SeaWorld is to reach out to the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and the National Geographic channel and work with one of them to build a marine animal television program. The name of the show will have nothing to do with SeaWorld, and the name SeaWorld will only be mentioned rarely. The program will be filled with animal rescues that SeaWorld is already performing, following the veterinary staff around the park, and shadowing the trainers of the different animals. The goal here is to make the rescue staff, veterinary staff, and the trainers stars of the program. While it would sound like a good idea to never show bad things on this program, we want to show bad things, and then show how the staff reacts to fixing the issues. We want the program to be lively, funny, entertaining, and educational, much in the similar vein as the gone but not forgotten Crocodile Hunter show. While mostly centered on the efforts of the SeaWorld parks and rescues, the program will also benefit from talking with other experts in various animal fields, comparing notes, and constantly trying to improve how the animals are housed and treated. The trainers in particular will be allowed to speak freely about how their charges are doing and about how the culture of the park affects their work.

All of the above items are 2016 requirements. In some cases they may be classified as a work in progress, but by the beginning of the 2017 season, the above should all be checked as completed and sustained moving forward. Now, after all of that, we finally get to:



The extensive list above requires quite a bit of work on behalf of the staff and will show that SeaWorld cares deeply about their guests and their guest’s experience in the park. Even with that in mind, 2016 is all about turning around the perception of the park. While there are some complaints about there not being enough attractions, the key for 2016 is to try to attack the perception that SeaWorld is uncaring about its animals and has poor customer service.

The currently under construction new dolphin habitat will be completed and opened for the beginning of the year. While this will be a bit of a draw, there is no net new attraction count, so the attendance improvements will be minimal. This will provide us the opportunity to fine tune the lengthy list of staffing and management fixes without getting record crowds at the same time.

So far as actual rides go, there will be three new themed kiddie rides will be added to the Sesame Street kiddie land area.

A new junior focused land will be built in the land right behind the ski stadium, between the Great White roller coaster and Shamu Stadium themed to the Madagascar IP that is currently featured in Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld San Diego. This will include 6 flat rides, a small junior coaster, the show that was created for the other two parks, and a Penguins of Madagascar themed indoor boat ride across the path from the rest of the land and similar in layout to Maelstrom at Epcot. The target age group for this land is 6-14, although there will be no attempts to stop adults from riding the rides.

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SeaWorld will open a Disability Assistance Dog Training Facility in the old Clydesdale Hamlet. This will be mainly staffed by experts in the field and veterans. The dogs that graduate from the program will be donated to disabled veterans. Once the companion dogs are donated, a Hall of Fame will be established chronicling how the dogs are helping the veterans. The facility will only accept dogs into the program that come from the dog pounds/shelters. Any dogs that cannot make it through the training will be auditioned for other positions in the park, the Pets Ahoy show, and the character meet and greets. Excess dogs to these will still be trained and then adopted out with the proceeds of the adoption going back to fund the facility. The facility will also seek out sponsorships from outside companies and will hopefully bring the Busch/Budweiser brand back into the park, as well sponsorships from the four main branches of the military. Like with most other facilities in the park, there will be a self-guided walking tour of the backstage areas of the facility.

Near to the Disability Assistance Dog Training Facility and taking over the old Anheuser Busch Hospitality House will be an Animal Rescue Facility. This facility will specialize in non-aquatic animals that are injured. This will mostly deal with local injured animals, but will also have specialized facilities for indigenous wildlife as well and have enough land/bunks/cages for land animals like horses, deer, wolves, foxes, as well as poisonous snakes. The facility will have the aim to rehabilitate animals and get them returned to the wild as quickly as possible before an animal is domesticated and cannot be returned. The facility will also maintain contacts with animal sanctuaries and zoos for animals that cannot be returned to the wild. There will be a backstage walkthrough of this facility.

In addition to the new areas, construction will have started on the backstage area walkthroughs throughout the rest of the park…with some of them ready for this season.

SeaWorld will start a tradition of holiday festivals. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas/Chanukah, New Years, St. Valentine’s Day, Independents Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Spring Break, Back to School, Summer Camp, School Camp, and will import the BBQ and Bands festival from Orlando. Each of these holidays will have specials events, special parties, and special decorations. For the major holidays, the park will immerse itself in the decorations, particularly ones in the “off season”. The goal is to make people want to visit the park around these holidays to see the makeover that the park has undergone.

The main attraction for 2017 is a large facility with a built in log ride themed to the Amazon. The facility will be located on a plot of land between the San Antonio version of Journey to Atlantis and Beluga Stadium. The log ride, called Quest for the Amazon, will be themed to a trip down the Amazon river with built in tanks of Piranhas, Anacondas, Black Caiman (a crocodile bigger than the Nile crocodiles), Arapaima, Giant Otters (6ft long), Bull Sharks, Electric Eels, and Payara (Vampire Fish) that are all viewable from the log you are riding in. There will be a loose theme of looking for an explorer that has gone missing, but mostly that is just a means to tie all of the different scenes together. Somewhat similar in layout to Splash Mountain, Timber Mountain Falls, and Ripsaw Falls, the log ride will have many different outdoor and indoor scenes, 5 drops of various sizes including a large photogenic drop down the front of the ride building. This is a ride designed to get you wet, and as hot as the middle of Texas usually gets, it will be very welcomed. When the temperature drops, there is also a semi-dry mode.

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The building will also contain a facility walkthrough attraction, but unlike the other ones, the backstage areas will be offshoots of a self-guided tour through a large facility that contains other Amazon jungle animals like Jaguars, Spider and Squirrel Monkeys, Sloths, Capybaras, Toucans, Macaws, Poison Arrow Frogs, Giant Anteaters, the Jesus Lizard, and Golden Lion Tamarins. Some effort would also be made to acquire several variations of river dolphin and in particular the endangered pink river dolphin called a Boto that are trainable (and SWSA would become only the second facility in the world to keep them and the first outside of South America).

In addition to the Amazon area and attraction, a series of shallow touch pools will be added to the area between the ride station of the Steel Eel and Sea Lion Stadium. These touch pools will have a variety of different touchable creatures including turtles, rays, crabs, and starfish, among other residents. There will be several different shallow pools and feeding stations where guests can buy food to feed the animals.

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This year will also be the year that SeaWorld San Antonio sees that park debut of the Blue World Killer Whale upgrade that has been previously announced, to include double the surface area of the current Killer Whale enclosure and a water treadmill for the whales to exercise in. With the animals becoming comfortable using the performance button and deciding when they want to perform, and a much larger enclosure equipped with specialized Killer Whale toys to keep them exercised and amused, most of the arguments for why the environmentalists don’t like SeaWorld will have been addressed. It won’t quiet them down, but at least their legitimate concerns will have been addressed. Since the Blue World project was not invented by me, please feel free to read up on it at

This year will mark a major addition to the park in the form of a massive new roller coaster called Orca. The entrance for the ride will be between the Penguin Encounter and Currents gift shop. The ride station and break run will be nearly parallel to the Steel Eel’s ride station, but the lift will head off toward the turnaround of the Steel Eel and spend most of its time running around in the plot of land south of the park. Orca will be a 315ft tall B&M airtime machine similar to Behemoth in Canada’s Wonderland, although a smaller version is at Kings Island in the form of Diamondback. The track above 100ft will be painted a golden yellowy orange (to represent the sun and the land), while the track under 100ft will be painted blue (to represent the water). The cars will be fabricated to look like artistic versions of a killer whale and will be in black and white. The visual effect will be of a killer whale jumping out of the water, and the airtime on the coaster will help solidify the visual. This will become the tallest full circuit roller coaster west of Cedar Point and will have no inversions. The stats on this roller coaster will be very comparable to Behemoth at Canada’s Wonderland…including the fact that the upper wheels seem to be off of the rails so much that they appear to have enough time to slow down when going over a hill and most of the way down the other side, aside from the it being one of the faster roller coasters in the world.

The main ride for this year is called Mysteries of the Deep, a motion simulator ride. It is located just past the Shark/Coral Reef building on the north side of the park. This is one of those clichéd rides where everything starts all hunky dory and then “something bad happens”. In this case, you are exploring the bottom of the ocean and then you find yourself in the middle of a Sperm Whale versus Giant Squid fight. While trying to get away from the fight, the submarine is knocked and then starts sinking like a rock well past a safe depth. However, since you go past where you are supposed to be, you find all kinds of rarely seen fish, to include, Frilled Shark, Fangtooth Fish, Giant Spider Crab (12ft across), Giant Tube Worms, Vampire Squid, Dragonfish, Dumbo Octopus, and Angler Fish.

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In addition to the ride itself, research will be undertaken to attempt to keep deep sea creatures alive in pressurized tanks. If all goes well, SeaWorld San Antonio will become the preeminent authority on keeping deep sea creatures alive and the only place to view the extremely rare creatures. The facility is being built on the edge of the park to allow it to expand if scientific advancement requires it.

The last year of the five year plan will concentrate on the two things that SeaWorld will likely need at this point, rides that will cool guests off and rides that can help deal with the capacity issues that the park will likely be having at this point. It will also introduce a new creature to the marketing and merchandising folds: a Narwhal.

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This roller coaster, called Narwhals, The Unicorns of the Deep, will be themed to Narwhals but since the longest a Narwhal has survived in captivity is one month, there is going to be no attempt to try and bring one to the park. Videos, pictures, and plaques are going to be the best that we can do. This coaster will be an Intamin launch coaster similar to Cheetah Hunt in Busch Gardens Tampa with a similar three launches. The ride will take over the area formerly occupied by the closed Texas Splashdown right between the Steel Eel and Great White roller coasters, thus keeping all of the outdoor thrill rides far away from areas that contain sensitive animals. This roller coaster will be similarly laid out as Cheetah Hunt, but instead of the tree structures, this roller coaster will stick to the ground and short bunny hills. It will be billed as a family coaster, and will have plenty of water elements to cool off guests. While Narwhals are real creatures, this coaster will take a much more whimsical approach to the ride and the subject.

In this final year of the 5 year plan, we are also going to invite the enemy into the park and build a facility in their name and image. The environmentalist facility will attempt to send the most positive message that could possibly be spun by such a facility. It will be used to support the mission of the named entity and build membership. There will need to be contracts in place that keep the entity from negative public statements about SeaWorld, but they would also be consulted for their opinion about best practices, which would then be negotiated for realistic-ness and budget. Basically we will be giving them a seat at the table, not to demand things, but to get an opinion into the discussion. There will be many rules, negotiations, and agreements built around something like this…it will not be a bully pulpit, but a way to work with those who want the best for the animals, because really what SeaWorld wants is what is best for the animals. And those who believe in that are not our enemy, but our friends in conservation.


Within five years, SeaWorld San Antonio will have completely turned itself around from a regional park losing guests to a destination park that is going to happily struggle to handle the large crowds that it will draw. It will have won the Golden Ticket for Cleanest Park, Friendliest Employees, and best Marine Park, while taking a close second place finish for Best Food. By the end of the five years, SeaWorld San Antonio will be on a three year streak of best new attraction (although it was really close that final year). The customer service issues that have plagued the park in the past will be humorous antidotes to those who are deeply in love with their newly revitalized park. There will be a great deal of new things to do, and those who stay long enough in the park will be enjoying the upgraded and less expensive food and merchandise offerings.

I think the reemployed mimes summarized the turnaround the best when they said:




Edited: August 22, 2015, 8:48 PM

SeaWorld Orlando
Five-Year Plan and Beyond: 2016-2025

When SeaWorld Orlando opened in 1973, the park's attractions were limited to live animal shows and a few exhibits. The well-known animal shows featured killer whales and dolphins performing tricks under the direction of SeaWorld trainers. Through the years, SeaWorld Orlando expanded its park to include thrill rides and family attractions in combination with its live animal shows. Using this model, SeaWorld Orlando was a proven financial success for many years and the future looked bright towards future expansion.
In 2013, the documentary Blackfish was released and drew media attention as it questioned SeaWorld's practices of animal captivity, specifically holding cetaceans such as killer whales and dolphins at its parks. Subsequent incidents of trainer deaths and guest injuries in the past few years also led to major changes in public perceptions of SeaWorld.
The 50 year-old SeaWorld brand found itself in serious financial trouble. SeaWorld's operations were slow in response to the changing social concerns and media scrutiny. The controversy directly contributed to a decline in attendance and revenue at its parks. SeaWorld's inability to successfully react and counter these concerns resulted in financial losses for three consecutive years, which in turn brought about a lawsuit against SeaWorld from its own shareholders.
To recover from this crisis, SeaWorld has to respectively and responsibly restructure its business plan, specifically in the use of animals in its parks, repair its image, and expand its theme park properties into true resort destinations to compete with the ever expanding theme park industry.

SeaWorld: A New Business Model
In the coming years, SeaWorld will continue to build thrill rides and family attractions combined with themed animal exhibits, but it will discontinue its live animal shows and end its controversial breeding practices. SeaWorld recognizes that one of the possible solutions to care humanely for its killer whales and dolphins will be in ocean sanctuaries or sea pens, but it must develop in conjunction with marine biologists what best practices and solutions they will use to put such plans into place. In the meantime, SeaWorld will hold its killer whales and dolphins in upgraded and expanded habitats that will offer the best possible care while in captivity. In discontinuing the controversial practices in question from its operations and continuing to expand its theme parks with world-class attractions, SeaWorld will offer a better, more sustainable business model for its long-term growth.
SeaWorld: Repairing Its Image
SeaWorld will focus on building a positive reputation of honesty in its operations and business. As a responsible leader in the theme park industry, SeaWorld's mantra will be inspiration and education while offering quality family entertainment. At its theme parks, conservation will be the message, offering free facilities tours and appropriate up-close animal encounters. Transparency in its operations and business will be supported by independent third-party inspections and audits made public. Any deficiencies in its operations or business will be urgently corrected to ensure 100% compliance with all regulations. SeaWorld will also continue to develop and support foundations and partnerships that protect the ocean's environments and its inhabitants. Through its actions of transparency, conservation, and protection, SeaWorld will begin to repair its image and will work to re-establish its business partnerships while cultivating future alliances with other businesses and the media.
SeaWorld Orlando Resort
Between the SeaWorld Orlando theme park, Aquatica water park, and Discovery Cove, the SeaWorld Orlando Resort is close to becoming a true resort destination. In doing so, SeaWorld Orlando will focus on expansion and differentiation from its competition with a combination of animal exhibits, thrill rides, and family attractions. The current animal habitats at the park will be expanded and improved upon to offer better environments for SeaWorld's animals. Areas of the park will elevate its immersive qualities using new themes promoting better attention to detail. SeaWorld Orlando will also focus its efforts into improving the food quality at the park using fresh ingredients and serving scratch-made foods fairly priced with the family's tastes and budget in mind. SeaWorld Orlando will expand its in-park special events, festivals, and holiday programs to encourage return visits. SeaWorld will also initiate an industry-leading benefits program to hire the best employees in the Central Florida region with increased pay and better benefits than SeaWorld's competition. And finally, the SeaWorld Orlando Resort will become a true resort destination when it opens its three on-site hotels and accompanying entertainment complex.

The first new build at SeaWorld Orlando will be the previously announced Bolliger & Mabillard hyper coaster, Mako. It will be the third B&M coaster built for SeaWorld Orlando, along with Kraken and Manta. Mako will follow the continuity of SeaWorld's previous builds combining thrill rides with well themed animal exhibits and habitats. Shark Encounter and the Sharks Underwater Grill restaurant will be upgraded as part of the newly themed area of Sharks Realm.
Journey to Atlantis Upgrade
Also in 2016, Journey to Atlantis, a signature attraction at SeaWorld Orlando built in 1998, will receive numerous upgrades and improvements to its special effects, show details, and musical score, again bringing the cutting-edge attraction to the forefront of the theme park industry.

Explorer's Reef
Explorer's Reef, an underwater themed area first introduced at SeaWorld San Diego, will be brought over to SeaWorld Orlando in 2017. The Orlando version will be larger than its San Diego counterpart with more hands-on animal exhibits, a new restaurant, and two new "sea creature" flat rides, The Octopus and Starfish Shuffle. Explorer's Reef will be a reimagined area that will occupy the former Stingray Lagoon section of the park.
The Reef Restaurant and Island Luau
The Reef Restaurant and Island Luau will be two additional table service restaurants added to SeaWorld Orlando in 2017. The Reef Restaurant, part of the Explorer's Reef expansion, will take place in a colorful setting that will offer a whimsical look at life under the sea. It will feature seafoods, pastas, salads, and various delicious and healthy dishes for children to enjoy. Island Luau, located on the lake across from the Sky Tower near Shamu Stadium, will be an updated version of the once Makahiki Luau from SeaWorld Orlando's past. Fresh, tropical dishes will accompany the exciting and "fiery" performances represented by the exotic islands of the Pacific Ocean.
Sea Celebrations
Also in 2017, a delightful new afternoon parade will run through the heart of SeaWorld Orlando, featuring a full cast of SeaWorld characters (costumed sea turtles, sharks, polar bears, penguins, dolphins, walruses, and Shamu) and various land-worthy AND seaworthy floats parading along the shores and waters of SeaWorld's lake. Three of the floats will use amphibious "duck" vehicles as they switch from land to water to land again. The parade route will follow along the eastern shores of the lake by Sharks Realm, past Shamu's Happy Harbor and Shamu Stadium before ending at Wild Arctic. Music and pageantry will highlight the parade, as well as the novelty of floats that can actually float.

Walrus Falls
Cruise around the Arctic Circle and discover the fascinating animals that inhabit the frigid waters of the northern oceans on Walrus Falls. The boats will pass by a walrus habitat that will offer above and below water views of the animals before the expedition ends with an exciting drop down the falls into a vast splashdown pool that cools off all of its passengers. Walrus Falls will stand as an outdoor neighbor to the indoor Wild Arctic habitat.
Wild Arctic and Shamu's Happy Harbor Upgrades
Wild Arctic will expand its habitat in 2018, featuring larger exhibit areas for its Beluga whales, walruses, and polar bears. The motion simulator ride inside of the Wild Arctic building will be retired to make way for the expanded habitats.
Shamu's Happy Harbor will also receive an upgrade in 2018. The water playground, ropes course, and all the rides will receive a more detailed underwater theme similar in scope to the newly open Explorer's Reef on the opposite side of the park.
Bang-Bang Boomerang and Out'n Back Water Coaster at Aquatica
SeaWorld Orlando's water park, Aquatica, will receive two new water slides in 2018. The first new slide, Bang-Bang Boomerang, will feature a wedged-shaped super structure that guests will plunge into from a 100-foot tower and ride up, down, and back up the slide's massive wings as the tubes grab negative-Gs. The second slide, Out'n Back Water Coaster, will be a record-breaker as the longest water coaster in the world. The long stretch of slide will run from the front of the park to the back and again to the front of Aquatica. Both slides will be additions to the first major expansion of Aquatica that pushes the boundaries west of the main entrance across from Dolphin Plunge.
In 2018, all of the live animal shows will be discontinued at SeaWorld Orlando and the stadiums will be replaced by future attractions in the years to come.

Blue World Project
SeaWorld Orlando will open one of its largest and most extravagant exhibits ever in 2019, the Blue World Project. Originally intended to cover 1.5 acres, the true size of the exhibit will encompass 3 acres of killer whale habitat. The live killer whale shows will be retired and the show pools will be incorporated into the new habitat, allowing more exhibit space for the whales. The seating area of Shamu Stadium will be replaced with a marine biology station promoting conservation efforts and rescue, rehabilitation, and protection projects by animal care specialists and ecologists from around the world. The marine biology station will also promote SeaWorld's efforts to find a suitable solution in returning the killer whales back to the oceans, possibly using ocean sanctuaries in acclimating the whales to the open seas.
Wild Paradise
A new 25-minute show celebrating the beauty and majesty of whales and dolphins will take place in the Nautilus Theater. Using high-definition projections and holograms combined with special effects, practical sets, water effects, and large animal props, the show will supplement the retired animal shows in an equally entertaining and educational presentation.
We the Oceans
SeaWorld Orlando will finish the day of adventure with a new nighttime "splash-tacular" presentation viewed from Bayside Stadium, a grand finale featuring a sweeping musical score coordinated to fireworks and special effects that will surround a new icon of SeaWorld Orlando, a 75-foot tall interactive sculpture of various marine animals and sea life spiraling out of the waters of the lake.

The fourth and newest Bolliger & Mabillard coaster at the park will be Orca. The wing coaster will be another great addition to SeaWorld Orlando, THE destination for roller coasters enthusiasts in Florida. Orca will stand 190-feet tall and will feature various moments of airtime just above the waters of SeaWorld's lake. Orca will also feature four inversions, including a 160-foot tall vertical loop and two slow rotating barrel rolls mimicking the movements of a killer whale at sea. Orca, together with Kraken, Manta, and Mako, will complete the best collection of B&M coasters in the world.
Caves & Caverns Dive at Discovery Cove
In 2020, Discovery Cove will add its newest swim experience, the Caves & Caverns Dive. Snorkelers will follow expert guides that will lead their group through a labyrinth of chambers and faux limestone caves before enjoying a free-swim in the awe-inspiring main cavern, fully decorated with colorful stalactites. It will be a sight to behold and a swim to remember.

SeaWorld Resort & Spa
SeaWorld Orlando will become a TRUE resort destination marked by the opening of its first on-site hotel, SeaWorld Resort & Spa. Themed to water, the 20-story tower with 450 rooms will be a stunning new icon that will singularly represent the SeaWorld Orlando Resort. It will occupy the southeast corner of SeaWorld Orlando's property overlooking the eastern edge of the theme park. A new park entrance exclusive only to resort guests will be built next to the Hospitality House in the back corner of the park, next to the newly built Orca wing coaster. The Hospitality House itself will include a lounge for all SeaWorld Orlando hotel guests to enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks available throughout the day while inside the park. Also included with a hotel stay will be front-of-the-line access on all rides at SeaWorld Orlando and complimentary shuttle transportation to Aquatica and Discovery Cove.
On the 20th floor at the top of the tower will be SeaWorld Orlando's signature restaurant featuring exquisitely presented dishes expertly prepared in a fabulous setting. Other features of the new resort will include three pools, along with The Grotto main pool, various guest activities and amenities, luxury services, and stunning views.

Creatures of the Deep
Creatures of the Deep will be a new 3D dark ride that will submerge guests into the hidden depths of the oceans. Throughout the submarine voyage, guests will come face to face with many strange and exotic creatures, including the elusive Giant Squid. The attraction will incorporate track-based ride vehicles with motion simulation and animatronics in combination with high-definition 3D projections. It will be an exciting adventure for the entire family to enjoy together. Creatures of the Deep will occupy the former Seaport Theater in The Waterfront section of the park.
In preparation of further expansion to the SeaWorld Orlando Resort, a new parking garage will also be constructed in 2021 for guests visiting SeaWorld Orlando.

Whale Shark Aquarium
The former Sea Lion & Otter Theater next to Sharks Realm will be transformed into a new underwater habitat for a rather large and menacing creature, the whale shark. Swimming above guests heads unopposed through its massive tank, the whale shark and the accompanying fish will offer SeaWorld Orlando another fantastic exhibit full of color with a tinge of fear.

The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef habitat will open in 2023 replacing the former Dolphin Theater. It will offer a view "from down under" featuring the diversity found in sea life from the largest reef system in the world. The habitat will have many different levels to view the various sections within the system.
SeaWorld Underwater Explorers
One of the best ways to experience The Great Barrier Reef mixed with a sense of adventure is on SeaWorld Underwater Explorers, a boat ride with underwater portals that allow an up-close and personal view of the expansive habitat. The beauty and fantasy of The Great Barrier Reef and the fun and adventure of SeaWorld Underwater Explorers will inspire the next generation of divers, marine biologists, and marine lovers alike.


The Keys Resort & Spa
The SeaWorld Orlando Resort will open in 2024 a new boutique resort, The Keys Resort & Spa. The 400-room resort will be split into three unique areas of accommodations - Key West Bed & Breakfast, Houseboat Row, and The Florida Villas. Key West Bed & Breakfast will encompass ten mansion-style homes that will house an individual bed & breakfast, similar to the actual B&Bs found in Key West. A full breakfast will be served as part of the experience. Houseboat Row will feature thirty docked houseboats berthed in a shallow waterway offering two and three-bedroom accommodations for large families that need more space while on vacation. The houseboats will be rigidly built on hidden foundations that will simulate free-floating boats on the water. The Florida Villas, the largest section of the resort, will offer single room accommodations and family suites featuring tropical garden entrances and large private balconies standard with all villas. The Keys Resort & Spa will occupy the northwest corner of SeaWorld Orlando's property just north of the Key West themed entrance area of SeaWorld Orlando.
Margaritaville Resort
In addition to The Keys Resort & Spa, the SeaWorld Orlando Resort will also open in 2024 the Margaritaville Resort, a 750-room hotel that will partner the SeaWorld and Jimmy Buffett brands. The resort will occupy the southwest corner of SeaWorld Orlando's property across from the Ports of Call pavilions just outside of the park.
The Pier, The Shores, and The Boardwalk
Set to be completed in 2025, The Pier, The Shores, and The Boardwalk will be the "keystone" development at the SeaWorld Orlando Resort. Built as three cohesive districts, The Pier, The Shores, and The Boardwalk will be an entertainment and retail complex that will offer even more exciting options of fun and adventure at the SeaWorld Orlando Resort. Amusement rides, games, food concessions, restaurants, and various shops and storefronts will be featured at The Pier, The Shores, and The Boardwalk, as well as an 18-hole miniature golf course, an "underwater" bowling alley, a movie theater, and various other attractions. Some of the stores, restaurants, and attractions that will be featured at the entertainment complex will include Billabong, Ron Jon Surf Shop, Tommy Bahama, Panama Jack, Salt Life Food Shack, Guy Harvey RumFish Grill & Bar, Aquarium Restaurant, The Oceanaire Seafood Room, FlowRider Surf Machines and The Titanic Museum. The Pier, The Shores, and The Boardwalk will be a connecting gateway between SeaWorld Orlando and the main parking garage, similar in layout to the Universal Orlando.
With a world-class theme park, a water park, a boutique park experience, three resort hotels, and an entertainment complex, the SeaWorld Orlando Resort is poised to become one of the premier resort destinations in the world and is well positioned for even more growth in its future.

Edited: August 22, 2015, 10:27 PM

SeaWorld Theme Parks Present:

SeaWorld Orlando: The 2020 Vision

The 2020 Vision is what SeaWorld parks have dubbed the five-year makeover of SeaWorld Orlando. The name is intentional. 20/20 vision means perfect vision, or that you can see things in perfect clarity, as SeaWorld does now.

The 2020 Vision has been divided into three areas of change: Theme Parks, Advertising/PR, and SeaCamp. Each of these areas is important to the makeover, and only with all three can the vision be fully achieved.

The most major change coming to the park is, of course, related to the Orcas. The orca whales have been the target of conservationists and animal rights activists alike for years. So, with the 2020 Vision it will be announced that no more whales will be bred or captured for any SeaWorld park. Therefore, once the whales are gone, they’re gone. This means no whale families will have to be separated, and no animals will be forced to breed. This has a twofold effect. First, conservationists and activists will be more likely to visit, while also creating a more short term draw for people who do, in fact, want to see orca whales before they are no longer kept at the park.

Another change that does not quite fall into any of these categories is the introduction of multi level parking. The new Parking Garage is five stories and takes up a quarter of the space of the old parking lot, freeing up 75% of the space for future theme park developments. Also, the land just south of Aquatica will be acquired for use as part of SeaCamp


SeaCamp is a new idea to be debuted in 2020. It is a special program for teens divided into three separate curriculums: Trainer, Scuba, and Marine Biologist.

Below is a year by year breakdown of The 2020 Vision.


Theme Park

In 2016 almost no changes are made animal wise. Construction begins on The SeaFloor for planned opening in 2018. It is a ride through aquarium ending in a fully functioning aquarium. More information on this later.

The new hypercoaster Mako opens as previously announced. The official website states: “Sink your teeth into SeaWorld’s unrivaled new coaster, Mako™. Arriving summer 2016, this 200-foot hypercoaster soars to the top of the food chain as Orlando’s tallest, longest and fastest coaster. Scream through the deep dives with unmatched speed and predator power. Fly through the air with the grace and agility of the ocean’s apex predator. “

Construction has also begun on The Odyssey: An Epic Adventure, a boat ride following the story of The Odyssey (if rather loosely) located in the Sea of Legend. .

The parking garage opens, freeing up space for theme park developments.


Filming begins on a documentary to be released in the next five years, entitled SeaWorld Saves. It focuses on SeaWorld’s conservational triumphs throughout its history and its current rescue efforts. The documentary is set to air in Spring 2017.

SeaWorld announces The 2020 Vision


Land south of Aquatica is cleared and construction begins. This fully functioning facility will include cabins and a dining hall. SeaCamp is a new 5-day program for students entering grades 9-12 where students can learn the basics of Marine Training, become fully Scuba certified and scuba dive with the various animals, or earn the ins and outs of Marine Biology. The program gets inspiration from Space Camp, and therefore has a similar price, at $950 per student.

Overall, 2016 is a relatively minor year for SeaWorld, but things are getting into full swing in 2017


Theme Parks

Odyssey: An Epic Adventure

This ride opens in the Sea of Legends in 2017. It is a dark ride in which guests board a ship and voyage through the seas facing various monsters. Throughout the ride, guests encounter Polyphemus (the cyclopes), pass between Scylla and Charybdis, resist the songs of the Sirens, and even get turned into pigs by Circe (as they see in a “mirror”) before finally being rescued and brought back to shore by Athena. This ride reaches some high-ish speeds, but overall is pretty tame. Overall, this is a great family ride and addition to SeaWorld Orlando

Also opening in 2017 is the Fisherman’s Wharf area. This is on the old bridge across the lagoon, which is now six times wider, allowing for themed elements, including fishing ships parked along the dock, a fish ‘n’ chips stand, signs posted for “Deep Sea Fishing Expeditions”, an ice cream shack, and more. There are many house facades decorated on both sides as colorful ocean houses.

At the entrance to the bridge opposite the sky tower the Seafarer’s Cafe is built, with entrees priced at approximately $15, this restaurant focuses more on shellfish and fried fish. It is a slightly more reasonably priced option to Shark’s Underwater Grill. It is decorated with fishing gear which adds to the ambiance, and features seating on the dock on the water.

Construction continues on The SeaFloor for opening next year.


SeaWorld Saves Airs on television. This documentary highlights triumphs, such as the release of their 500th rescued turtle, the ideals of the founders, and rescues of marine mammals. It also covers the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation fund. The one-hour long documentary ends with the announcement of “Shamu’s Retirement”. No more whales will be captured or bred for any SeaWorld park. A replacement has not been announced, as there are still 20 or 30 years before the Whales are gone.

After this, TV ads are placed for SeaWorld advertising Shamu’s retirement.


The cabins are now complete, and construction of facilities begins, including animal housing for sea lions, and a large diving tank filled with fish. The dining hall is built, and hiring of counselors begins.

Things are looking up at SeaWorld Orlando, and even more is on the way in 2018!


Theme Parks

Although it doesn’t really fit perfectly here, it fits better than anywhere else. In 2018 a make-over of SpringHill Suites and Fairfield Inn and Suites takes place. They become The SeaWorld Resort at Marriott and are now considered one resort. The theming of the hotels is improved greatly, with wall murals depicting ocean life, art work in each room, water-hued paint and comforters, and various themed elements designed to make the hotel a fully immersive experience.

Also becoming available is the “Stay, Swim, and Ride” package. This package includes a one day visit to Discovery Cove, a ticket to SeaWorld and Aquatica for the duration of the stay, and a stay at The SeaWorld resort.

Opening in the Spring is SeaFloor, a giant aquarium with tropical fish, dolphins, octopi, squid, jellyfish, sea turtles, manatees, and more exciting tropical sea creatures! This aquarium is themed as an underwater research base, with the tanks as “windows”. This area very much serves as a land in it’s own right, and it’s extensive aquarium is one of the largest in the country.

As a part of this base, there are new, interactive exhibits, including two highlight attractions. The aim of these attractions is to bring you to the animals, rather than having to bring the animals to you. The first is a screen. The footage on this screen has been years in the making, and if necessary, the opening of this can be delayed. All the footage comes from an extremely small camera that has been attached to a rescued and released turtle. There are several turtles with these cameras and after several years of continuous recording, the highlights have been edited into a one hour long loop, showing visitors “A Day in the Life of a Turtle”

The second highlight attraction features the use of Virtual Reality Helmets, and is therefore not recommended for children under 7 years old. This attraction allows people to fully experience a computer generated ocean, and, using a joystick, they can swim around this amazingly realistic ocean. They can encounter all sorts of sea creatures, including seals, dolphins, turtles, and orca whales. The idea behind this is that they are piloting a robotic camera outside the SeaFloor Base.

In addition, Daylight Hologram Imaging will be used to create whales and dolphins “swimming” around the room.


In 2018, similar TV advertisements regarding SeaWorld’s Conservation efforts and Shamu’s retirement continue to air. However, ads for the yearlong 2020 celebration have also begun, including a new nighttime spectacular, water stunt show, and lots of new attractions and lands. Also advertised is a special where 1,000 people will be randomly offered entry into the park for the entirety of their stay at an official SeaWorld resort for only $20.20 total.


During 2018, the construction is complete, and staff is hired and necessary equipment is acquired. Any animals needed will also be brought in from various rescue centers in Florida and around the country. All the animals are either SeaWorld born, or rescue animals. Animals will include: fish, sea lions, dolphins, and rays.

Also this year, the daily activities are planned for the camp. Each day would include a combination of group activities, team building exercises, individual development, and activities specific to their focus track. All three tracks include a before-hours all access tour of SeaWorld Orlando.

As 2020 is drawing nearer and nearer, the SeaWorld is making preparations in 2019!


Theme Parks

The first addition to the park is a new rollercoaster called Barracuda, this is the park’s fourth major roller coaster. This ride is highly intense and reaches top speeds of over 100 miles per hour. It focuses heavily on sharp turns at high speeds, and although it lacks an inversion, the turns itself are certainly enough thrill for one ride. The ride features an outside spiral, which effectively allows riders to experience negative gravity. The music is played loud on this ride and is, of course, “Barracuda” by Heart. The gift shop features a tank with a school of live red tail barracuda (yes, I did my research. Red tail barracuda do best with company.)

Also this year, screenings begin for both Hydrophonic: A Musical Stunt Spectacular, and Beautiful Blue, a new nighttime spectacular featuring scenes of beauty and excitement projected onto water screens. The showings of these are random, and guests never know when they will be happening. At the exit of the park on days they are performed, there will be cast members there taking surveys so that the shows can be improved based on guest suggestion.

A shuttle is added between SeaWorld park and Aquatica, and a “Multi-Park Pass” is added, which is basically a park hopper. These additions allow guests to make the most of any stay.


Advertising for The 2020 Celebration is in full swing. Ads air on several channels, media appearances are made, web ads appear (maybe even on our beloved Theme Park Insider), and In-park advertising is greatly increased, not only in SeaWorld Orlando, but also in the other two SeaWorld parks.

By October, 2020 Merchandise is on sale. merchandise includes standard merchandise updated for the year, special limited edition merchandise, and t-shirts advertising support of Shamu’s retirement.


In 2019, SeaCamp is fully developed and ready to go. Therefore, during the summer season, the program will be soft-opened for 4 weeks. Students will pay a lower price ($750), and will still receive the full experience. As will be done when it opens, student input is taken to improve the camp experience.

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for...2020!

2020: The Big Year

Theme Parks

Many, many additions are on their way in 2020, all opening early in the year so they will be ready by the summer, when the biggest crowd will hit. Preferably, most of it will be open when the first wave comes in April, during the east coast’s school vacation week.

Sea of Paradise opens. This polynesian-themed land has a tropical feel, and features a surfing wave, an all-new live show, and a luau.

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Honu: A Dinner Experience is the name of the luau. It is a traditional hawaiian luau, and was designed by actual islanders to keep it as authentic as possible.

Kowabunga! is a surfing wave, the kind found in water parks and cruise ships. This wave is available for anyone to use during the day, but one-hour private group surfing lessons are offered before park opening for $30 per person. Located next door is the Hang Ten Surf Shop, which sells bathing suits and towels.

Jolly Mon is a live conservation story based on the Jimmy Buffett song of the same name. Jimmy Buffett has allowed SeaWorld to use his story for this show. Jolly Mon is a poor man who “sings for his supper every night”. He was always kind to all the people and animals of the island. Then, one night, when Jolly Mon is on his way to a distant island, he hears a cry for help. When he goes to investigate and offer them a hand, they turn out to be pirates. They seize his ship and all his belongings before throwing him into the sea. He appears to be drowning when a puppet dolphin appears. He has always loved Jolly Mon’s singing and appreciated his kindness to the animals. The dolphin carries Jolly Mon up above the surface, before they swim up to the sky. “They stayed up in the sky. Now all the island people when they wish upon a star, see the dolphin and the Jolly Mon tell ‘em where they are.” Most of the song is incorporated into the show, and this story teaches the virtues of being kind to all of the ocean’s creatures.

The SeaFloor gains a new addition in 2020 as well. A new ride, Voyage Through the Deep is an omnimover attraction where guests become researchers and travel through aquarium tunnels through various regions of the ocean, including the Great Barrier Reef, Polynesian Seas, Caribbean, and Deep Seas before finally ending at The SeaFloor. The ride also uses projection technology to create some exciting scenes. The views are amazing, and there is even a moment or two where your heart may skip a beat!

Wild Arctic is tweaked too. The ride itself is reprogrammed to become smoother. The film stays the same. The area at the end now has friendly staff members to give you information about the animals you are viewing.

Hydrophonic: A Musical Stunt Spectacular begins regular showings three times a day. This show features jet skis, trick water skiers, Water jet packs, fire on water, and more amazing stunts all set to music for a stunning spectacle you won’t want to miss. This show is located on the lagoon

Dance parties sprout up throughout the park, giving the whole park an atmosphere of fun and excitement. The park also has a new and improved soundtrack.

End the day with Beautiful Blue the new nighttime spectacular on the lagoon. With water screens and beautiful and exciting footage, this show highlights conservation, while keeping it a subtle message beneath the awesome wonder of our oceans.


Advertising continues as before. Ads especially feature Hydrophonic, because, come on, it looks pretty cool. Depending on the location of ads, they may also focus heavily on conservation efforts. Overall, advertising does it’s job and draws large crowds to SeaWorld.


SeaCamp has its grand opening in April 2020! Students can now come and fully experience the full size dive aquarium, dolphin pool, sea lion enclosure, and more. The camp is a major money maker for SeaWorld.

With a newly renovated theme park, a water park, an all inclusive specialty park, and now a camp and it’s own resort, SeaWorld has truly become a destination. By the year 2020, they will have straightened out tensions with wildlife activists, meaning they will appeal to a wider demographic. Overall, SeaWorld has a new face, and can now see in 20/20.

August 22, 2015, 10:00 PM

I know that it's really late, but is there anyway to use my real life pass on this round? Over the last two weeks I moved 5000 miles to start college, and it's been quite a bumpy transition. Although I've been working on my proposal sporadically, unfortunately I don't see a way to finish it up. It may be too late to use my pass, in which case I would have to respectfully bow out of the competition. Such would be disappointing but completely understandable.

In any case, thank you for everything thus far, and, if this is the end, I will definitely be around to compete in future seasons. I'm extremely sorry for the inconvenience.

August 22, 2015, 10:29 PM

Andy, as you have submitted the request prior to the official challenge deadline you may still use your real life pass on this challenge. If you do happen to finish your proposal, feel free to submit it in the unofficial proposal thread at any time. You will receive a score of 0 for Challenge 5 but are safe from elimination this round. I wish you luck with getting set up in your new home and look forward to seeing what you can do in Challenge 6.

Edited: August 23, 2015, 12:07 AM

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SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld, once the world’s premier aquatic animal theme park, is seeing declines in recent years due to public backlash and controversy surrounding the treatment of their animals in captivity.

With new management and business strategies under CEO Joel Manby, SeaWorld is looking to present a brighter image that displays a better, more positive view for the guests that emphasizes the positive conservation efforts currently underway for the organization, while making the park more friendly for all types of guests.

Although there are many issues currently surrounding SeaWorld San Diego, the following are general problems that need to be addressed concurrently with the following park expansions:

Public Image

In recent years, SeaWorld has seen harsh criticism from documentalists and film critics alike. SeaWorld has been viewed negatively due to their lack of response or blunt rejection regarding these issues, so clear communication from this point is critical. First of all, when facing accusations such as animal abuse, SeaWorld should respond to these claims with substantial facts and evidence (pictures, videos, and testimonials) supporting their actual practices, while also highlighting features of conservation that would run adversely to those claims.

In order to satisfy the concerns of the opposing environmentalists, in 2016, SeaWorld first needs to acknowledge the poor marine animal practices that have taken place in the past at marine parks worldwide due to the lack of general education of the species. However, SeaWorld, as the leading company in their unique industry, needs to set an example by clearly outlining their practices on social media and presenting documentaries that include testimonials from researchers, marine biologists, veterinarians, and trainers. Also, the creation of SeaWorld Conserve (as described below) would greatly aid in the guests’ perception of SeaWorld. Such efforts would greatly enhance SeaWorld’s image and stimulate growth for their company’s stocks and theme park attendance rates.

Staffing and Customer Management

The existing and future staff of SeaWorld San Diego will be mandated to attend at least one of their company training workshops. These two day training days will assist them in learning techniques to allow them to efficiently and kindly deal with customers. Also, regulations will be made for staffing that would include appropriate dress code and hygiene maintenance in order to ensure that SeaWorld employees respresent SeaWorld positively.

In regards to customer management, the lines need to be managed by the posting of accurate wait times at each attraction and the promotion of a single rider option and the Quick Queue pass, which would be promoted and discounted for guests at the SeaWorld Across the Oceans Resort. The website and following app should also be routinely updated to inform guests of the park’s status of operation of all its rides and attractions on a day to day basis.


Finding adequate parking in a time efficient manner SeaWorld is an issue that deters local and outside guests from visiting the park. A large parking garage should be built in 2017 to maximize parking space. The parking garage would be equipped with fully functional elevators and its levels and specific sections would be distinctly marked with glow in the dark paint to ensure that guests can arrive and depart in an efficient manner. There should also be an increased amount of bus transport vehicles, and their boarding stations should be clearly indicated when exiting the park. Also, guests from the SeaWorld’s new resort (described below) would use separate parking, which would increase the amount of space for other guests specifically visiting the park.

2016: Operation Orca

At the forefront of SeaWorld San Diego’s publicity and public controversy is the orcas, or killer whales.

So, “Why not just release them into the wild?” many ask. They point to the Keiko, the movie star killer whale captured from Iceland as an infant who starred in the Free Willy films and was later semi-successfully released into the wild.

Keiko, the famous whale, was released into the wild, but he lived for only two years thereafter. Attempting many times, Keiko failed to join a pod of whales that would accept him. He was also reported to having strayed back to shallow waters, seeking human contact.

Additional rehabilitation efforts are needed to ensure that SeaWorld is releasing killer whales that are suited for a new sea environment. Currently, they are supposedly fed gelatin, an artificial substitute to keep them hydrated, which should immediately be replaced with its wild counterpart. Other dietary changes should be made if not done so already, such as the feeding of the full fresh and raw fish. Standards for marine captivity should also be created and enforced with accordance to the most current research.

SeaWorld San Diego is currently undergoing a Blue World project to double the size of their existing orca enclosure, encompassing ten million gallons of water and reaching depths of fifty feet. SeaWorld claims that this expansion was not meant to be a response to some environmentalists’ concerns, but rather their fourth extension is meant to ensure the well being of their orcas. While such an expansion is critical for the current orcas, it is not a permanent solution. After additional efforts following the five year plan, the orcas should be moved to larger sea sanctuaries, and Blue World can be repurposed to accommodate dolphins and various fish species. Blue World offers guests an immersive viewing experience from three different levels: shore, the shelf, and the bottom. At the shore, arguably the most natural form of observation, guests can admire the animals from the land. The second level, the shelf, allows guests to see the orcas through glass underwater viewing areas at a fourteen foot depth. Finally, The Bottom viewing option allows guests to experience the orcas at the deepest point of their enclosure. Brian Morrow, SeaWorld director of development and design, commented, “It reflects this concept we’ve talked a lot about, this idea of dynamic enrichment where the whales will have various surfaces and depths.”

In response to its many issues, the breeding program at SeaWorld should be terminated at the earliest possible date. As necessary, the younger orcas should be kept together to ensure the social interaction that is vital to their species. The other, older orcas that were captured from the wild should be released in the areas containing pods at which they were found (i.e. Iceland) using the most recent tracking and research methods, which would increase the likelihood of the released whales of finding other wild orcas that share the same dialect or even their original pod.

The stadium area will be given a modern, dome-like roof and be repurposed as a stage for the documentary films that depict SeaWorld in a positive setting, as well other traveling live performances, which would be featured at key times during the high season.

2017: SeaWorld Conserve

After addressing the orca problem, second on the priority list is SeaWorld San Diego is creating a new attraction. SeaWorld Conserve is meant to become an engaging, educational experience to highlight SeaWorld’s advances in the realm of conservation.

While film critics have largely commented on SeaWorld’s faults and supposed animal abuse, SeaWorld needs to take cautionary steps to deter guests from this stigma. This walkthrough attraction emphasizes SeaWorld’s conservation efforts and also includes information regarding the various organizations that SeaWorld partners with (such as the National Wildlife Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, and The Nature Conservancy) to advocate support for their pertinent causes as well. SeaWorld’s focuses on conservation include the following: rescuing, ill, injured, or orphaned animals; funding and support for research; funding and direct actions for conservation; and the education and interpretation of animals. SeaWorld Conserve directly benefits three of those main components, making this education center a necessary addition to SeaWorld San Diego. The exhibit itself is highly informative, however its information is easily interpreted by guests and also includes engaging activities suitable for young children.

A self guided tour (including optional audio guides) of the building itself is concluded with a similarly decorated boutique shop that sells SeaWorld merchandise, including books and toys for children. 10% of the all the proceeds collected at this store is used to fund wildlife conservation efforts of SeaWorld and its partnering organizations.

2018: The Surge

While SeaWorld is chiefly famous for its family-friendly animals, the parks also attracts thrill seekers. To comply with this older demographic, in 2018, SeaWorld San Diego will open a new roller coaster, The Surge. This ride will include five inversions and one full loop, while also utilizing simple animatronics to enhance the riders’ experience. The ride cars and track itself will be colored to represent pacific waves, and accompanying thematic music will follow.

The ride experience itself will be complete with an adjacent gift shop, featuring souvenirs and other items themed to the Pacific Ocean, its inhabitants, and culture to accompany the theme.

2019: Prehistoric Waters

This family-friendly 2019 expansion will emphasize the fact that the species of the world’s oceans have evolved drastically to what it is today. This scenic dark ride, a slow flume based ride with an initial incline and four minor descents, will feature a wide array of prehistoric sea creatures that have either gone extinct under human supervision or have been discovered as fossils. The ride will be a stunning display of animatronics, physical props, projections, and underwater lighting. Prehistoric Waters will take guests on a ride through time, allowing them to explore the mysterious creatures of the deep that previously occupied the oceans for centuries.

In addition to the dark ride, there will be a museum open to all visitors, which would include marine fossils dating back to the Jurassic time period. Also, displayed on screens will be beautifully animated renderings of the ancient creatures. Also, 3D artificial models of the fossils and depictions of the creatures themselves can be admired and touched by children.

2020: SeaWorld Across the Oceans Resort

Concluding the designated five year plan will be the opening of the first on site SeaWorld Hotel. This hotel would feature many deals for SeaWorld enthusiasts, including family and group discounts for all guests of the hotel.

SeaWorld Across the Oceans Resort would include many amenities including: a spa; four pools, two of which are themed with exquisite marine tiling; a 24-hour functional fitness center; 4 shops; 2 restaurants; a conference center; free parking for guests of the hotel; 2 wedding coordinators; strong resort wide Wi-Fi; a 24-hour business center, laundry services, and daily leisure activities at the resort scheduled specifically for children.

The lobby itself would have sophisticated modern marine theme but is also very family-friendly, featuring activities and services for even the youngest of children. SeaWorld is a perfect supplement to SeaWorld San Diego and will assist the park in becoming one of the premier vacation destinations in the world.


The five year plan for SeaWorld is intended to be financially viable for the company. Funds have already been appropriated for the Blue World exhibit, and SeaWorld Conserve and theater will be well within budget. The rides and hotel are also economically viable as well, and outside donations and funding for such extensions is expected to increase with the implementation of the new orca rehabilitation program and the new publicized conservation efforts and center.


With these necessary improvements over the five year time span, SeaWorld San Diego will emerge as a leader in the animal theme park industry, and its counterpart parks will follow its example. SeaWorld will viewed as a positively based company that values the quality treatment of their animals and facility conditions, which would, in turn, increase customer satisfaction, drawing in overwhelmingly positive responses from the general public.

Edited: August 23, 2015, 4:46 PM

Douglas Hindley - Seaworld 2020

I do like the idea of Sea World Sanctarium, it seems to me to be a realistic compromise between looking after these animals and still allowing for them to be experienced. Whilst the the extremist PETA types (I could go on a rant about them, but I wont) would have it all closed down, I don’t think a reasonable person could deny that having these magnificent creatures accessible does inspire a lot of kids to enter into the marine biology fields, and provide us with valuable information so we can help look after these creatures in the wild. I think its good you acknowledged this

However, I can’t escape that you’re getting rid of Sea World’s signature show. If you’re going to get rid of this, you need something of equal weight to replace it… I think Ocean Commotion falls a bit short - its a worthy show to be sure, but I don’t think I’d go to the park just to see it… However when Sancatium comes on line, I think this problem is solved by Whale Watching and tours of the scantarum.

Megalodoon seems like a good attraction to have, but it seems a bit forced to have it in the artic area, as from what I can tell its subtropical/Temperate. I think you missed a trick by not instead having a sea-battle with Whalers in the arctic ocean, it fits the theme of the area, and helps push the conservation “feel good” message. However the Christmas overlay seems perfect.

Overall, your proposal has a lot of development going on and would be costly to implement, however I think it keeps the essence of Sea World in tact, whilst moving to a more sustainable future.

Jeff Elliot — Untitled Seaworld San Antonio

Good call on fixing the little things first, and getting the “little people” involved in identifying and fixing them. As one of the “little people” in the corporate environment its always frustrated me how obvious the problems were in any organisation but they were never dealt with because the “big people” had no idea what things were like outside of their ivory tower. I just hope that those with “big mouths” aren’t hushed up, and those with “little mouths” can be encouraged enough to speak up.

Good call on getting the park filled in “dead” time. As I heard they say at Southwest “Planes don’t make any money sitting on the ground” (Someone needs to relay that to United, but thats another story).

I wish you’d have made parking free, or at least included a “Free access” option (like a free shuttle bus or something). I hate how parks choose to see the guest as someone who can be milked through nickel and diming - don’t try and “hide” the true cost of admission, be honest. Good shout on free drinks. Lets face it, “Post Mix”/Fountain drinks don’t really cost the park anything at all, a few cents worth orfsyrup, a bit of tap water, and some Co2. What you gain in people enjoying themselves more by not being dehydrated, and not needing your first aid facilities is going to outweigh this - throw in what I’m sure does happen occasionally, an ambulance being called because someone passed out, well thats a perception that you’ll never shake from anyone who sees it.

I like your customer service solutions. Porters seem like a great idea, I’ve seen them used in banks, the admin desk at my university, etc, s well overdue to see it here. I also like what you said about guests being bored being a wasted opportunity. Bravo… Now I just have to work out what I find more annoying, Bad hold music, or bad mime…

Restroom management is important. The focus you put on it really puts me off going to Sea World San Antonio because they must have some serious problems… My Uncle, who worked part time as a Pub Janitor once told me that the most important room in any pub is the womens restroom - if its a mess, she’s not coming back, and she’s not letting her husband come back either… Funnily enough about a decade later I head Jon Taffer say the same thing on Bar Rescue… Chalk that up to a good reason to listen to the “little guys”. But I’m digressing - if any public space isn’t getting that right, then they’re on the path to failure, good to call them on it.

Animal Encounters seems like a great idea to help build value and help cure that “boredom” problem you talked about earlier. Its also an idea that scales up and down as you need it. Expect a busy day? More encounters. Quiet day? The staff can do something else.

I like the idea of making animal backstage areas visable and accessable. The explotation plan.. this seems a bit far fetched to me. Is there anywhere that uses this type of system? What about new animals, will they learn to perform through osmosis (like how sheepdog puppies learn from watching their parents)? There’s just too much unknown here… I don’t know if its credible or not… Also there is the customer management side. The siren goes out “Shamu is on in 30 mins”, you’ve got half the park rushing to the other side of the park hoping to make it in time…. the other half were camped out around the stadium hoping shamu would push the button. What happens if the animal pushes the button but changes its mind? You’ve got a stadium full of unhappy customers. Great in theory, but in practice, I’d want to see in practice, small scale, to see if it works first.

I like your idea of playing TV softly. Growing up in Australia, Animals were a staple of many kids shows. If you had a land animal, you had a zookeeper from either Toronga Park Zoo in Sydney, or if its a safari type animal, they’d be on the spot at Western Plains zoo. If it was a sea creature, it was always someone from the Sea World Animal Rescue Centre. News report about a stranded whale or dolphin? Its being helped by someone from the Sea World Animal Rescue Centre, and they’ll almost certainly say a few words on camera too. Wouldn’t suprise me if there were people out there who didn’t realise Sea World Australia isn’t some sort of public body like the zoos, but a private enterprise. This sort of soft power helps keep the warm-fuzzy feeling about the brand.

All of this and we’re just getting to the exciting stuff. Yikes, you’re through.

I do have some concerns about theming an entire land around Madagascar… Yes, its a good movie series, but how long can it be an attractor… Madagascar 4 seems to have dropped off the map. Going Dream works Animation might be more flexible.

With the disability dog training facility, I’m not sure how viable it is, I think Guide Dogs are generally raised in a home environment with a lot of emphasis on going around town, and learning how to take the train, the bus, deal with traffic, etc. Maybe for other disabilities it might be viable, but I wonder if there will be enough animals to be able to be on display, yet not too many so they’re not learning how to do their job. Its a good feelgood thing to have, but is it very “sea” world?

Orca seems like a fantastic ride, especially if you can get that effect to work. The 2019 plan seems awesome, we know more about the moon than the deep sea, or so they say, and the weird and wonderful critters down there will surely be a good supplementary attraction.

I do like the idea of inviting in “the enemy”. They don’t have to be “the enemy” as you said (Well, the extremists do, they’ll never be satisified), but working together is a great way to kill the blackfish repuation dead.

Excellent work

Keith - SeaWorld Orlando five year plan and beyond

As I said in a previous critique, If you’re going to remove a landmark show like Shamu, then you’re going need something amazing to replace it with. I don’t like the idea of Whales being mistreated, but there’s no denying it draws people to visit the park for that experience alone… and I don’t think I’m seeing it. Blue world seems nice, but I’m not sure I’d go all the way to Orlando to see it.

I do like the emphasis you’ve put on animal attractions, especially the whale shark, and your barrier reef (hopefully it still exists in 2023) However, I’m not really sure I should be evaluating things after 2020, but your development seems to be very back-heavy.

Your resort plan I think is perhaps putting the cart before the horse. I think the current problem needs to be proven to be solved before talking about hotel precintcts and the boardwalk - although I do really like the idea behind the boardwalk, it seems perfect for Sea World.

DPCC - 2020 Vision

I like the idea of SeaWorld Saes, however, I think Jeff has a great point in not naming the film with the sea world branding, instead just have identified sea world staffers and facilities in the programme… Calling it SeaWorld Saves immediately opens up accusations and a perception of being somewhat “fake”, a PR exercise… When its over the shoulder of people who just happen to work there, it seems more real, more raw. When its an advertisement, like you’re planning for 2018, that makes it even more “fake”.

SeaCamp seems like a good idea, but I wonder if this is a good use of the landspace, how many weeks is it likely to be used? What happens to the space outside of camp season?

I think “Shamu’s Retirement” is a great PR exercise, but you need to ensure you have a landmark attraction ready to replace it.

I’m not going to travel to a theme park to watch a 1hr video of turtle highlights, especially when my local zoo has PandaCam online… This would be to me a PR exercise to throw on the website, not something to call an attraction.

Kowabunga I think is more suited for a water park, rather than a theme park… But I do like the idea of a Hawaaian themed area, even if it is education light. Seafloor/Voyage through the deep doesn’t work for me… A tunnel through an aquarium is standard fodder at aquarium attractions, why would I go to seaworld to see a fake version?

Some good ideas here

Karina - Untitled 2016-2020

I don’t think a 2 day workshop is enough for Customer service. I’d want at least a week (Singapore Airlines spend something like a week just on table placement. Most call centre environments are 4 weeks plus a a structured support “academy” for just as long when on the phones).

I don’t think quickqeue solves the waitline problem, it just hides it for guests who are willing to spend, and leaves the rest of us resentful.

I’m not going to go to Sea World especially to watch documentaries… so that isn’t a great replacement for the current tennant of Shamu Stadium… I do like how you talk abut practical ways to try to prepare them for the wild, but I think even with a change of feed, and a better environment, they’re still going to end up like poor Keiko… that broke my heart.

You’ve got some good ideas in here, but I keep seeing myself wanting more… looking for that one stand out thing. thats going to take this to the next level.. but I don’t seem to see it.

I do like however the Sea World Conserve. I’d suggest putting more focus on how to use this. “Ocean Rescue” the TV series, something like that.

Prehistoric waters is a good idea though. Here the use of simulated animals (video, etc) isn’t unnatural, its the only way to experience it. I’d have liked to see you develop this more.

Edited: August 23, 2015, 4:52 PM

Wow, that was the hardest one yet to judge! As this type of challenge has not been done before in Theme Park Apprentice (at least to my knowledge), I was not sure how it would go, but all of you did a fantastic job. You have each taken different approaches to fixing the parks and all of them have some merit. I'm also very impressed how much effort you put into these...a couple of you went above and beyond anything I expected to get.

For critiquing this challenge, I have broken it up by year, as well as given my thoughts on the overall aspects of your plan and a conclusion as to what really works and what doesn't. Also, keep this in mind...while I try to make a note of everything I like, sometimes things slip through the cracks (especially in longer proposals). If it was something I wasn't a fan of, however, you'll be sure to know. Regardless of what I may say, you all have done a good job with this challenge, which may very well be the most difficult of the season.

Douglas: Of the three SeaWorld parks, SeaWorld San Diego probably has the largest set of restrictions. However, you have done a good job of working within them to create your plan. The three-pronged approach is smart and allows you to focus on all three aspects simultaneously rather than getting criticized for only paying attention to one. The core idea of improving the living conditions for the animals at the park while also growing it as a theme park is a good focus. The SeaWorld Sanctuarium, while not a part of the park itself, is an outstanding way to combat the issues raised by critics. While phasing out some of the shows will receive backlash, it may yield net positive attention. The shift in public relations is another good idea as that department has been failing the company lately. Focusing on one area of the park at a time for theme park improvements and continually investing is a good choice.

-2016: Your initial conservation improvements are minor, but are of the scale that can be reasonably expected in a year. I really like your PR campaign of focusing on the good that SeaWorld has done, but filling the park with video advertisements seems unnecessary. Despite their intentions, I could see this being more of an annoyance than a benefit. For the theme park side, upgrading the outdated Wild Arctic is a great idea and you've come up with a thrilling new ride. Twirlpool is also a nice family ride and fits with the unified area.

-2017: The phasing out of animal shows needs to be handled carefully or it could do more harm than good. Instead of removing both shows at once, perhaps one (probably One Ocean) could be phased out in 2017 and the other at a later time. I do like the PR promotion for the shows to hopefully reduce future disappointment when visitors can't see Shamu perform. Seas of Legend is a great themed area to add to the park, and centering on a Journey to Atlantis overhaul is excellent as that ride has always felt half complete. Mermaid Cove sounds more like a gimmick than a valuable attraction...ditch the mermaids and focus on the animals. Bio-Luminaria is a great way to transform the park at night and avoids problems that could be caused by a pyrotechnic-based nighttime event.

-2018: With plans to move the orcas into a sea pen, the Blue World Project honestly sounds like a waste of money. Redesigning this project for the dolphin areas would have been a better use of funds. The SoCal Sea-Deal is a great idea, but you need to make sure it doesn't result in a net loss of revenue. Additionally, make sure that you offer an incentive for tourists to purchase it over the Southern California CityPass. Coastal Shoreline is a good addition to the park and Ocean Commotion sounds like a great show. However, you must make sure that the show activities don't disrupt the orcas, so a complete stadium overhaul is likely necessary. Spill Squad is a nice family friendly dark ride and fills a void in the current attraction line-up of the park.

-2019: Tropical Currents sounds like a nice theme for an area and retheming Shipwreck Rapids to the Amazon river is great. The theme also works well without redoing Manta as manta rays do live in tropical waters. Aquatic Animal Voyages sounds like a cool attraction, but it doesn't seem very practical to create canals all over the park. Having a smaller loop (perhaps just around the Tropical Currents area) would be a better option.

-2020: The SeaWorld Sanctuarium is a great solution to allow the orcas to live in captivity but not have the restrictions of a standard exhibit tank. However, with orcas being so important to SeaWorld, I could still see a lot of visitors stop visiting the theme park completely. If the Sanctuarium is close enough to the park, perhaps it could just be made into an additional attraction accessible by boat, and if not you could promote it by offering a 1/2 price admission with purchase of a SeaWorld ticket. Alternatively, perhaps a small number of orcas (2-3, possibly rotated annually if it wouldn't be too stressful for the animals) could be left at SeaWorld to keep these animals on display in the park. Open Waters fits with all the new themed areas nicely, and being centrally located in the park it helps to connect them all. Our Lonely Ocean sounds similar to Disney's Blue Sky Cellar and would be great as a limited time promotion center. High Tide sounds like a great attraction, and the park doesn't have a log flume, but I worry about there being too much wetness in one park with the addition of a 4th water ride. I guess it is SeaWorld after all, but an omnimover type dark ride would be a great alternative here. The addition of a full service restaurant is also a nice choice and adds variety to the park's food offerings.

Overall, you have a very solid and realistic five year plan. All of your attractions are good ideas, though a couple could use a little tweaking. I also like that you have put a lot of effort into the conservation and PR sides as well, ensuring that the negative perception of the park by the general public will diminish. The main worry I have is that your conservation efforts may end up backfiring for theme park attendance, especially if orcas are moved off site. They are such a huge part of SeaWorld that I could see visitors altering their plans if they can't see them, but at the same time I do not know how many go for the orcas and how many see One Ocean simply because their visiting the park. I'm not an expert in that area, but you've definitely done an excellent job on the rest.

Jeff: SeaWorld San Antonio is an interesting choice in this challenge since the target audience is locals rather than tourists and this requires a different approach. As a result, there is the temptation to go the regional route of adding a new ride every year. I am glad to see that you have not done this despite the San Antonio park's current lack of attractions. You have gone above and beyond with researching the problems faced by the park and have come up with a very good list of typical complaints. Your solutions to all the customer service issues are great. Your Deep Dive for SeaWorld is an interesting idea, but I am not sure there would be enough full-time employees to justify it. Perhaps it could work with the expanded operating calendar. Once again, you offer good solutions for staffing issues, though the idea of line porters fetching drinks for guests in line seems a bit too VIP for the park (I do love the mimes, however). For the Guest Perceptions section, some of these ideas are awesome and some seem like a risky move...more on that later.

-2016: Implementing your long list of improvements will definitely take time, but starting in 2016 is the right decision. Starting with an improved dolphin habitat isn't a bad choice. Expanding the existing kiddie area is a nice move, but there isn't really a need for a second one. Either retheme the current area to Madagascar or ditch the concept completely. The Disability Assistance Dog Training Facility and Animal Rescue Facility are interesting additions, but they don't really fit with the SeaWorld idea. At a Busch Gardens park, I could see these as being excellent additions, but for SeaWorld it seems odd. The backstage walkways are a good idea provided they don't interfere with necessary work and can be closed if the animals require privacy.

-2017: Quest for the Amazon sounds like a fantastic log flume. Incorporating animals into the attraction is something SeaWorld typically tries to do, and you've done a good job with it. Opportunities to get wet are always welcome. Again, I think you would be wise to stick with aquatic animals as SeaWorld doesn't really scream jaguar. Touch pools are always popular with guests, so a new one should be a draw. This feels too quick to incorporate Blue World, as it will not be ready in San Diego until 2018. Also, I'm not entirely sold on that touch button show concept. More likely than not, the animals would want to constantly perform until they are worn out as they are rewarded during the performance. While I have seen it happen once or twice, it is rare that not enough animals are interested in performing at the scheduled times. It is also a lot easier for guests and trainers to have a set schedule.

-2018: Orca sounds like a really good roller coaster, but at the same time it almost sounds redundant for the park. SeaWorld San Antonio already has Steel Eel, a smaller Morgan hypercoaster, and while a big new roller coaster is certainly a draw it should be different from those already at the park. Also, I think you mean to refer to Leviathan at Canada's Wonderland as Behemoth is roughly the same size as Diamondback.

-2019: Since SeaWorld San Antonio lacks Wild Arctic, Mysteries of the Deep is an excellent addition to the park. While cliché, the storyline of the attraction works well and allows you to showcase animals that most visitors probably wouldn't see otherwise. If deep sea creatures were put on display as well, this would be an instant draw to anyone with a fascination in the unseen creatures of the deep.

-2020: Narwhals, The Unicorns of the Deep is the coaster SeaWorld San Antonio could really benefit from. Unlike Orca, this is completely different from anything else at the park and is also quite different from anything at competing Six Flags Fiesta Texas. In addition, it is a great stepping stone between the smaller junior coaster and a large coaster such as Great White or Steel Eel. Since Narwhals don't survive in captivity, not attempting to keep one is a very smart choice. I am not entirely sure if having an environmentalist facility inside the park is the smartest decision. On one hand, it could be great for promoting that the parks are making every effort for the fair and ethical treatment of animals. On the other, it could be seen as a sign that the park isn't doing this and has been placed under surveillance.

Overall, you have a very good five year plan that addresses a lot of issues that SeaWorld San Antonio faces. Many of your attractions are good fits for the park and you have done an excellent job of addressing smaller issues that might otherwise be overlooked. However, I am concerned that your plan has too much in too short of time and would require a higher budget than SeaWorld could likely afford in their current state. I also feel that you may be straying a bit too far from the core of SeaWorld by introducing multiple attractions highlighting land animals and adding two big roller coasters just two years apart. Lastly, I'm not completely sold on a few things, such as employing a large number of disabled veterans (which sounds like a publicity stunt more than anything) or having animals dictate show times (which would likely create more problems than it solves). However, the majority of your plan is absolutely solid and if SeaWorld San Antonio had the budget to do it they could become the best park outside of California and Florida.

Keith: SeaWorld Orlando is the most popular of the SeaWorld parks and also seems to be the one hit the hardest by Blackfish due to its location in a large tourist center. The decision to continue featuring rides and animal attractions while discontinuing actual shows is a smart one to balance the possible disappointment from visitors with the demands of protesters. Transparency is a good way to repair the public image of the company and by offering backstage tours and submitting to public audits the park will hopefully be able to minimize complaints and backlash caused by Blackfish. The idea of making SeaWorld a resort is very risky with the competition in the area and goes beyond the scope of this challenge (as does your decision to extend the plan to 10 years), so in fairness to other competitors while I will critique everything I will only be judging you on the 2016-2020 portion of your plan for the theme park itself.

-2016: As Mako is an official project I will not comment on that. Upgrading Journey to Atlantis is a great move as that ride has reportedly become dated with effects that no longer work reliably.

-2017: Adding Explorer's Reef is an excellent move and will definitely be a popular attraction with the public. Given the crowds of the park, your decision to expand it and add a couple family flat rides is also smart. Expanding dining options is also a good way to improve offerings without breaking the bank. Sea Celebrations sounds like a very unique parade, especially with the amphibious floats. While not on the scale of a Disney parade, it is a top quality production for SeaWorld.

-2018: Walrus Falls is a great family flume ride, and given the temperatures in Central Florida I am sure getting wet is generally a popular option. In addition, this ride will appeal to those who aren't fond of the coaster elements found on Journey to Atlantis. Refurbishing Wild Arctic as well is a good move, though I would prefer it if the motion simulator stayed with an upgraded ride film. Adding better theming to Shamu's Happy Harbor is also smart even if it is mainly for aesthetic reasons and won't matter much to kids. The two new slides at Aquatica sound like fun and are perfectly timed to compete with Volcano Bay.

-2019: Incorporating the Blue World Project is a good idea and, given SeaWorld's location in the middle of the state, is probably a better choice than relocating orcas to a coastal sea pen. Wild Paradise and We the Oceans both sound like nice shows, though I doubt either one will be a huge draw compared to the competition.

-2020: Orca is an excellent roller coaster and would be very marketable as the world's largest wing coaster. While SeaWorld isn't typically thought of as a coaster park, this would give them four world class B&M coasters and make the park a must visit destination for any coaster enthusiast. The Caves and Caverns Dive definitely sounds like a unique experience and would be a good draw for Discovery Cove.

-2021: For those looking to visit more than one of the SeaWorld properties, SeaWorld Resort & Spa provides a favorable alternative to a basic Orlando hotel. Although I question the popularity of SeaWorld as a destination resort, this is the natural next step for the property. The perks of staying at the hotel sound similar to those of staying on-site at Universal Orlando and justify the added cost. I also like the inclusion of a rooftop restaurant. Creatures of the Deep would be a very good dark ride and probably produce better results than the park's Antarctica ride.

-2022: The Whale Shark Aquarium sounds like a basic but exciting animal attraction. While whale sharks are large, they aren't particularly scary so I don't know that guests will necessarily feel fear when they watch the sharks swim around them.

-2023: The Great Barrier Reef is an excellent animal attraction that would have a lot of opportunities to showcase different marine life. SeaWorld Underwater Explorers is a great complimentary attraction and would likely be a popular way to see this gigantic exhibit.

-2024/2025: Adding both The Keys Resort and Margaritaville in the same year seems a little overkill. I'm not sure that the three existing parks can support three hotels worth of visitors with a combined total of 1600 rooms. Cedar Point is 1.5 times the size and has fewer rooms when all of its properties are combined. The Pier, the Shores, and the Boardwalk all seem like nice additions and are the equivalent of a CityWalk or Downtown Disney. However, I'm a little disappointed to see that neither of these years appear to have any improvements for the actual parks and focus exclusively on building up the resorts.

Overall, you've got an excellent plan that represents a very realistic direction for SeaWorld. You have done a great job of balancing animal attractions and theme park attractions over the course of the plan. The park improvements are all great and are within the budget of the park, but I doubt the company would invest in resort development until the park itself is stabilized. You have also tried to satisfy the critics by eliminating animal shows. However, my biggest concern is elimination of the shows all at once without immediate replacement. Instead of pulling everything in 2018, perhaps you could remove one show each year and replace it the next year to keep the attraction count up. There also may be shows that don't need to close, so be sure to take that into consideration. Other than this issue, your plan is very good and would likely reverse the downward trend of SeaWorld Orlando in no time at all.

DPCC: While coming up with a name for your plan was not a requirement for this challenge, I like your name of 2020 Vision and this could be used as a clever marketing tool. It is always smart to focus on three separate areas, but it may have been better to use conservation or environmental as the third aspect rather than SeaCamp. I think the elimination of breeding is the most feasible all around solution to solve the issues with orcas, as releasing them isn't a good option and moving them out of the park could backfire. It guarantees that orcas will remain for some time for those who wish to view them, but it also sets a definitive end for those who disagree with the practice. SeaCamp is a good idea, but I don't know that making it a core focus of the whole plan is necessary.

-2016: Again, no comments on Mako since that is an official project. Beginning construction on larger projects well in advance is a smart move as it will tell guests that something is happening and allows you to spread the costs over time. The idea of adding a parking structure is also good, but make sure the structure is the size it needs to be when your plan is complete, not the size it needs to be at the time it opens. Filming a documentary would be good for PR, though you must make it very clear that this is not simply an anti-Blackfish. In addition, documentaries take a long time to film so I would bump the release date back a bit. Starting SeaCamp construction in 2016 when it won't be open until 2020 sounds a bit extreme.

-2017: The Odyssey sounds like a great ride for your park and would likely be a bigger hit than Antarctica was. I would have appreciated a bit more details as to what type of ride this is, as you've mentioned guest board a ship, high-ish speeds, and overall pretty tame. My assumption is a boat ride with one or more drops, but do riders get wet? Fisherman's Wharf is a nice budget expansion, I'm just not certain SeaWorld would want an area themed to fishing. That said, the Seafarer's Cafe would be a nice restaurant to add and could be easily given a more nautical theme than a fishing theme. The documentary would be a great PR tool for SeaWorld as long as it is handled properly, but announcing Shamu's retirement this early is probably a misstep. The term makes it sound like orcas are being removed in the very near future, so while the end of the breeding program could be included make sure it doesn't imply the orcas are leaving immediately. Again, you're doing things way too early for SeaCamp to not open until 2020. Hiring counselors is something that would be done 3-6 months out, not several years.

-2018: Adding a hotel to SeaWorld Orlando is not a bad idea, and for budget reasons purchasing and converting an existing property may be a better option than building a whole new one. The Stay, Swim, and Ride package sounds like a good deal and would likely convince some to add SeaWorld onto their Orlando trip. SeaFloor sounds like a great aquarium and should be a nice animal addition to the park. I like the decision to include interactive attractions, though I must admit that A Day in the Life of a Turtle doesn't sound at all interactive and doesn't sound significant enough to be an attraction on its own. Your virtual reality attraction sounds a little better, though again I wouldn't advertise it as its own attraction. You may want to hold off on advertising the 2020 celebration until 2019, though I do like your publicity stunt (however, maybe open it up to more people or have it be one special day). I'm thinking this would be a good year to start construction on SeaCamp, as it gives you two years to get everything complete before the first guests arrive.

-2019: Barracuda is absolutely an extreme thrill ride, though your description doesn't specify whether it is launched or lift hill powered. I'm picturing something more like a faster Cheetah Hunt for this, which would be a nice fit for SeaWorld. 100 MPH may be a little unnecessary and an outside helix would be insanely intense at those speeds, but the concept of a high speed terrain coaster is good. Clever tie-in with the name. You may be starting the new shows too early, but the idea of collecting guest feedback and continuously tweaking to give the best experience is very smart. Adding a shuttle is necessary if promoting the complex as a resort and really should have been done when the hotel opened. Promoting 2020 now is good, but with all that promotion you maybe should have delayed Barracuda. Doing a trial run of SeaCamp is also a smart move to find out what works and what needs tweaked.

-2020: Is Sea of Paradise an addition for SeaWorld or Aquatica? Based on one of the attractions being a stationary wave, it definitely seems like a better fit for the latter. Either way, it sounds like a great addition. Voyage to the Deep is a great addition to the SeaFloor and would be a more complete experience than the typical underwater tunnels. It definitely needs a dark ride component to fill the gaps and I would prefer to see a couple animatronics rather than just projections, but it is still good overall. If you're going through the trouble of reprogramming Wild Arctic, why not do a new film? The ride will be nearly 30 years old in 2020, so it's due for an upgrade. Hydrophonic is a great new show that avoids the use of animals (to please the critics) and Big Blue sounds very World of Color-ish to me...a good nighttime spectacular for SeaWorld. In addition to advertising SeaWorld, the PR department better run plenty of ads for SeaCamp as the project needs attendance to be worth keeping.

Overall, this is a solid plan and for the most part it seems quite feasible. You have done a great job with your new additions and have definitely made SeaWorld hard to pass up on a Florida trip. However, you have done relatively little to deal with the conservation/environmental aspect or to please activists who feel SeaWorld is doing poorly. Other than cutting the breeding program and releasing a documentary, nothing was done about the welfare of animals currently at the park. At minimum, I was hoping you would incorporate the Blue World project in some form to improve the orca exhibit area. Your plan will definitely improve SeaWorld as a theme park, but I'm not sure that it will convince those who believe Blackfish to give them another chance.

Karina: Improving their public image of SeaWorld is one of the first steps that needs to be taken. Their PR department has struggled since Blackfish was released and has been part of the issue. Your approach to combating this problem is a good one by acknowledging that poor treatment did occur, but today's methods are much improved. While I haven't had issues with staff at SeaWorld San Diego, having employees attend workshops is a great way to help mitigate this. I also think all parks should be posting wait times and making this information easily accessible to visitors, but unfortunately outside of Disney and Universal this is rare. A parking garage is another excellent idea as parking can be a mess at that park during busy periods.

-2016: As the orcas are the biggest target of criticism, focusing on them first is smart. While attempting to release orcas is probably a bad idea, creating the best living conditions possible in captivity is easily achievable. The Blue World project is an excellent current solution as sea sanctuaries could take some time to develop. However, having this done is 2016 is likely an unrealistic objective (the project is currently targeted for 2018). Terminating the breeding program is a great way to appease activists without removing orcas completely. I don't think removing the show immediately is the smartest move as it is too good of a marketing opportunity, but phasing it out for an alternate show is not a bad idea.

-2017: SeaWorld Conserve is not a bad attraction, but I worry that it may be a lot of investment for something that ultimately isn't all that popular. The attraction seems a little too preachy to me and that could be a turn-off to some visitors. It is important to promote conservation, but an attraction entirely devoted to it may be a bit too heavy-handed.

-2018: The Orlando and San Antonio parks are definitely thrill parks, but the San Diego park doesn't really have thrill rides. Other than Manta, there really isn't anything more intense than a family coaster in the park. While The Surge sounds like a very good roller coaster, it doesn't really fit with the demographic of SeaWorld San Diego and would likely receive major opposition from the city (Manta was delayed at least two years and that's a much smaller coaster).

-2019: Prehistoric Waves would be a great dark ride/water ride hybrid and a much needed family attraction for the park. The idea of showcasing ancient animals through the use of animatronics is very good. Instead of starting with a lift, it may be better to reformat the ride, beginning at the highest point and slowly descending into the depths of the ocean. However, either method works well. The additional museum is a nice complementary attraction that houses some interesting displays and may show guests creatures they never knew existed.

-2020: I would hardly consider SeaWorld a destination park, especially with Aquatica over 30 minutes away. Therefore, the addition of a hotel seems premature as you would likely not be able to generate enough business to justify the investment. That said, you have created a very nice hotel, and if it was reasonably priced I could see those doing a longer San Diego trip staying here for part/all of their vacation. I'm just not convinced it will really benefit the park and the money spent could probably be better used elsewhere.

Overall, your plan is definitely reasonable for the park in terms of scale, but I feel you have missed the mark with a lot of your additions. Given SeaWorld's target audience, only Prehistoric Waves would likely be a long term benefit to the park. While I'm sure The Surge would be popular, it would likely result in an attendance spike that disappears after a year. You have done a good job with the PR part and may be able to get those who were turned off by Blackfish to give the park another chance, but without anything to persuade them that the park is worth returning to I fear it may be a short-lived boost before the park begins to suffer again.

August 23, 2015, 5:28 PM

Competitors, I feel I owe you a bit of an apology. I've had a very long weekend at work, and even though I have read each of your proposals multiple times and am confident in my rankings, I think that my critiques might not be as well composed as they could be. If something does not make sense, please feel free to contact me, either in here or at and I'll try to explain further. Right now I am working under terrible sleep deprivation, so forgive me if I don't get right back with you.

Douglas Hindley SeaWorld 2020

SeaWorld 2020 is a carefully organized proposal, well-planned and with a clear focus on where it intends to take SeaWorld in the next five years. The three-pronged approach (I wonder how much Neptune's Trident inspired it) allows each branch (tine?) to focus on their goals and keep better would be vital that there would be some sort of Czar overlooking all three and keeping them working together towards a common goal. I did some work with Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, literally side-by-side institutions that are supposed to be two branches of one overseeing organization, the Edison Institute. Everyone thinks is one big happy family. Wrong. This was quite a few years ago, and things might have changed, but the two organizations not only did not work together for a common goal, they hardly spoke to each other. They had their own agenda, and it would be vital to keep all three prongs of your "trident" working together or they would all head in different directions.

Your concept of recreating a new themed land every year is an excellent one, giving visitors a reason to keep coming back year after year to see what is coming next. I thought that your description of how each year and each theme land was influenced by the three areas of development was very well presented, almost like an outline of what needed to be done and how it was going to be achieved. Every year the park would be reinventing itself major bit-by-bit. The final result would be refreshing and reinvigorating. I think that your solution to the loss of One Ocean with a spectacle of song, dance, special effects, etc. is the best replacement for it, still giving visitors a major theatrical event that is focused on the whales without using them.

SeaWorld Sanctuarium. I understand your concept and I understand that this would be a great opportunity to return the whales to their rightful place in the sea as safely and responsibly as I read this, I kept seeing an ocean version of "Jurassic Park" where the dinosaurs figured out how to get out of their pens, benevolent as they were intended to be. I just can't visualize how you could establish an open-sea facility where whales could live safely. Huge nets? If one whale got caught in a net and died, the PR disaster would be nearly impossible to recover from. An invisible fence? I can't see Shamu with a collar on. Do they need more room? Yes, and if there was a way to return them to the open sea in a safe, protected way, I would be all for it, but I question if we have the technology, knowledge or experience to do this yet. Like it or not, SeaWorld has created whales that are reliant on us now, and it must find as nearly a fool-proof way as possible to care AND PROTECT them from an environment that they don't know how to survive in.

I know I just stuck a knife into the heart of your proposal. I think that 90% of your proposal is 100% workable, practical, logical and would be a major improvement for SeaWorld San Diego, giving it the needed boost and addressing the problems of replacing the core of its attractions, the whale and dolphin shows, with non-controversial high-quality. The Sanctuarium concept is a good one, but it needs to be rethought somehow in more practical terms. You can't take the whales from a less than perfect but still relatively safe environment and put them into a totally experimental less than perfect and also less safe environment and expect anything other than disaster to arrive, either from a natural disaster (hurricane, etc), man-made (environmental extremists cutting the net and "freeing Shamu" into an open sea where he can't survive, or whale-created (getting trapped in a net and drowning).

As always, your physical proposal is 100% top-notch, well written, beautifully illustrated and carefully organized. Perhaps this is one time where you should have taken the extra time available and rethought this one vital part of the proposal. I feel strongly that the concept of the Sanctuarium can be fixed, and possibly should be, but it needs to be much more carefully thought-through so that SeaWorld is not replacing one pr nightmare that was out of its control with an even worse nightmare that would be in its control.

Jeff Elliott SeaWorld San Antonio

Brave. Almost mind-numbingly deep research. Comprehensive. I jotted down these thoughts while digging through the presentation you created. We have come to expect the unexpected with your proposals, but you dug so much deeper into the heart and soul of the challenge than I expected or every would have thought of. You didn't just base your proposal on "SeaWorld has a problem with Blackfish that hurt attendance- fix it" looked on Blackfish as just the kelp that threatens to break the back of Shamu. You understood that there were vastly more problems than just a documentary that Sea World needs to address, and you bravely went into the worst park in the chain (debatable, but possible) and researched ALL of the problems. You understood that you can't just put up a new coaster and sweep the parking lot to make everything turn around. You established the major problems with the park, and good Lord there were a lot of them! It is not easy to look at the dirty underbelly, but you 1) established what the problems are, 2) grouped them together into manageable categories that can be dealt with collectively, and perhaps most importantly 3) proposed ways to solve these problems, not just short-term fixes but long-term solutions.

The sheer size of your proposal makes it nearly impossible to critique specifically without the critique being longer than the proposal- I have been accused of that at times. Forgive me if I spend most of my time on generalizations based on your specifics. Did you present a longer proposal than what was in the challenge? Yes, but the scope of your proposal required it. You uncovered so many problems that would need to be addressed that I suspect the final length surprised even you. You are proposing a systemic recreation of the entire SeaWorld employee psyche and the SeaWorld view on how to treat visitors. You can't do that in two or three paragraphs. Several of the more specific proposals you included stood out to me. The use of veterans, especially "wounded warrior" veterans, is a brilliant public relations move. That sounds very self-serving for SeaWorld, and it is, but I got the feeling that is was not a "pity me I got shot in Iraq" type of usage of these veterans, but more of a combination recognition of their existence, their sacrifice and what they can still contribute to our society through their training and rehabilitation of other animals, rescues, etc. In an area like San Antonio, with a large active and retired military population, you are creating a major incentive for them to come, support their fellow vets and thereby support SeaWorld.

The only SeaWorld I've been to was SeaWorld Ohio back in the 1970s, and that was a mess. I'm not familiar with what they have in San Antonio, but would "Quest for the Amazon" require the acquiring of more endangered species from the Amazon? That could go both ways- if done right, it could show a concern to help endangered species survive where their natural habitat is being destroyed. Or it could backfire and look like Sea World has changed from "harvesting Orcas from the open sea to "harvesting Giant Otters" from Brazil.

I understand your concept of the whales, etc. deciding when to perform, but this could lead to huge problems with customers. "I came her to see Shamu splash my kids in the front row! Wadaya mean 'He doesn't want to perform?!' He's a G*% D&*# fish!" The idea of letting them decide when and if they want to perform is commendable, but is it practical? When people see that Shamu has "hit the button" I could see a stampede heading for the stadium that could be ugly. If he doesn't want to perform, people would not feel that they got their money's worth. I really think that you must either have the shows and face the wrath of Blackfish fanatics or drop the shows completely and just have them on display in a healthy, dignified fashion.

Your proposal is one that, if we judges ever got together in the same room (heck, we're not even on the same continent!) we could discuss it for hours. It probably seems like I already have. The bottom line is this: you presented a proposal to address problems that I don't think any of us expected. You went way, WAY under the skin and identified not just the surface Blackfish infection but the much deeper issues that need to be addressed to solve Sea World San Antonio's problems. Once you identified them and proposed doable, practical methods to resolve them, then you proposed brick-and mortar solutions to the park's physical issues.

You treated both the mind and the body of SeaWorld San Antonio's problems. Extremely impressive proposal, massive in scope.

Keith Schneider SeaWorld Orlando: Five Year and Beyond

Keith, I hate to do this, but I feel that I can only critique your proposal on the 2016-2020 portions, since the challenge specifically states that "your plan -will cover the years 2016-2020". I hate this because some of the best ideas you came up with are in the "second five year plan". I thought that, technically, this was one of your best written proposals. It was well-organized, succinct and enjoyable to read.

The first section was the "philosophical section " of the proposal, where you stated the problem that SeaWorld has had and how it plans to correct them, was almost a mission statement for the park and its future. I was especially impressed how you proposed to improve employee quality with aggressive hiring and benefits. Sometimes you need to spend money to make money. Loyalty to the "Black Rat of Orlando" (my pet name for Mickey Mouse) only goes so far towards paying the bills.

The 2016 plans were conservative, and probably a good idea to start cautiously with plans already in place and an upgrade that has been needed for quite some time. 2017 was also cautious, bringing in a "new" attraction that has already been successful in another SeaWorld park, along with a new parade (original idea of floats that float) and quality restaurants (just curious, but why not just bring back a "new and improved" Makahiki Luau, since it apparently is a name already known? I'm not familiar with it at all, but good quality "blasts from the past" can be big draws, and "Island Luau" is pretty vanilla-sounding. Perhaps merge them into the "Makahiki Island Luau"? 2018 is more aggressive, with additions of some major "E" ticket attractions and upgrades of popular current locations. 2019 is when you finally get around to dealing with the hot-button item of what to do with Shamu. I understand that it would take time to get everything ready, but perhaps there should be more made of the final shows in 2018 leading to a brand new, even better experience for the whales and the visitors with the expanded Blue World Project. Since this is the "big solution" to the big problem, the entire transition from SeaWorld being "the place" to watch Shamu and dolphins perform to being "the place" to see Shamu and dolphins in as close to their native habitat as possible needs to almost be a major attraction in itself. Until the final decision is made about how- or even if- to return them to the sea is made, SeaWorld must show that it is being both aggressive and progressive in its commitment to their well-being. The nighttime show sounds impressive- the name doesn't do it for me, and I would suggest a different one, but the visuals would be spectacular. 2020 would be a kick-butt finish to your five year plan, with the addition of several marquee attractions. I wish the name "Manta" wasn't already taken- it would have been perfect for a winged coaster- but what can you do? "Orca" is the obvious choice and would be a great addition to the park's collection of coasters. "Caves and Caverns"...I have mixed feelings about this. It is really hard to outdo Mother Nature in creating a realistic looking cavern- I would be afraid of jokes being made about it looking like a pipe broke and "Mythos" was flooded. It would still be a fun experience for non-expert snorkelers.

This is where I have to stop, and like I said it is frustrating because I really like what you have come up with. You looked past the first five years and understood that this project is an on-going one, and attempting to cram ten years worth of upgrades into a five year span would be financially impractical for SeaWorld at this time. I won't critique the rest, but I will give you major credit and kudos for seeing this and taking the time to flesh this out, and I will say that I loved what you came up with. Very creative, very appropriate.

The big problem, the one that has caused so much of the problems that SeaWorld has faced, is what to do with the five ton killer whale in the room? You didn't really address that much other than that SeaWorld is working on it, and the Blue World Project is being doubled in size to give them more space until the problem is solved. I don't have the answer either, but sometimes you need to make what you are doing sound more dramatic than it really is. You mentioned that , until the problem was solved, the whales, etc. would be kept in upgraded and expanded habitats (etc.) which is commendable, but it was buried in the "New Business Model" part of the mission statement, and to me "New Business Model" sounds like new bookkeeping practices, accountants and how to pay the stockholders. I would have had a section of the mission statement dedicated solely to addressing the issues of animal care, rehab and return to the sea. Remember, SeaWorld has to be proactive and progressive, and show the world that they have listened and are doing everything possible to correct past wrongs (real and perceived) and do everything right from now on.

I don't want to leave this on a down note. This is, in my opinion, the best proposal you have presented yet. I enjoyed reading it immensely, and if (and when) SeaWorld decides to listen to you and implement what you have suggested in both your five and ten year plans, they will have a park perfectly situated to challenge Universal in the "most aggressive category" and a park guaranteed to give the black rat of Orlando even more headaches.

DPCCinc SeaWorld Orlando: The 2020 Vision

Poseidon seems to have a lot of influence on these proposals- once again we have a three-pronged approach to solving SeaWorld's problems, reminiscent of a Trident. I thought that your presentation was well-constructed, and you carried your three-pronged approach through each year in a well ordered, easy to follow fashion. I really enjoyed your play-on-words with the 2020, 20/20 vision idea...original and- I have to say it- eye catching.

Theme Parks- you have proposed adding several really impressive attractions and entertainments. Odyssey, Jolly Mon, the Beautiful Blue and Hydrophonic, and several other attractions that would be major crowd pleasers. But you seemed so intent on adding new things that you neglected to mention the attractions that are already here that need some updating, some TLC, such as Journey to Atlantis and the ever-problematic Antarctica penguin encounter. If you only put in new things the old things will look even older. When you mentioned that Hydrophonic and Beautiful Blue would have random showings in 2019 with no warning to the visitors I thought "Bad idea. VERY bad idea". A soft opening of a show is not like a soft opening of a ride. In a park like SeaWorld where performances are so important, and people plan their day around when a certain show is being presented, you can't just announce that "Our new high-tech performance of Hydrophonic will start in five minutes!" - you're going to have people charging to the performance venue like they're running from the bulls in Pamplona, or angry that they waited for a hour to ride Manta and now have to miss the show or get out of line and miss the ride.

PR/Advertising- this is essential to getting SeaWorld's good name back in the public eye. SeaWorld Saves could be a major response to the Blackfish fiasco if presented not as a response to it, but as an informative, inspiring and exciting event. SeaWorld would need to commit to the long haul of major public pr events, and not just an occasional commercial on Discovery or Animal Planet. PR/Advertising could not appear to be an afterthought. I think you showed a carefully- planned progression of advertising promotions, and if some of them are a bit gimmicky (the $20.20 drawing) so what? It gets the name of SeaWorld out there in the public eye.

SeaCamp- I like the idea very much, but it seems that you are taking a VERY long time in getting this off the ground (off the sea?). You're planning it extremely carefully, which is not a bad idea, but I would think it would be better to get it started small, gauge the interest, and have plans made to expand the Camp if the demand is there. You probably aren't going to need space for a thousand campers the first year. Start small, maybe space for a hundred campers, and if there is an overwhelming demand then add more facilities (that have already been planned but not built yet) for the next summer. And don't rely on it as a money maker- I doubt you'd do much more than break even for quite a few years.
I don't dislike the idea- I think it would be a wonderful experience and a great pr vehicle for the SeaWorld name- but don't expect to pay the stockholders much from it.

My biggest concern with your proposal? You said it in your Chatter comment- what about the whales? You briefly mentioned that they will still be around for 20-30 years, but doing what? Where? Are they on display but not performing? They are the biggest draw and the biggest headache for SeaWorld, and you rather ignored them. It is an issue that must be addressed in some way, good, bad, right or wrong.

Karina Bhattacharya SeaWorld 2016-2020

It was a bit startling to see you post a proposal with no graphics other than the opening logo. I understand your limited time and congratulate you on your presenting this proposal. It some ways it was a bit refreshing to be able to focus on your words and not on your artwork, and in this case I don't think that any additional artwork or images would have made much of a difference- that is a good thing in this case.

At first I was a bit confused if you were talking about SeaWorld in general or in SeaWorld San Diego in particular. Actually I think you were talking about both, but they kind of ran into each other. Be careful that you specify when you are talking about a particular park or the SeaWorld organization as a whole.

Under Staffing and Customer Management/Parking you were talking about how to resolve customer service problems, wait times, parking issues, but you never stated that there were problems here. I have never been to SWSD, so I had no idea what you were talking about.. Be sure to briefly state that there is a problem, this is what it is, and THEN explain how to fix it.

You probably had the most direct approach to the Orca situation and how to handle it, both in the short term and long term. It might work, it might not, but at least you addressed how to keep them available to the general public with a possible return of at least some of them to the sea.

The rest of your proposals were generally good, solid improvements/additions to the park, not especially aggressive but would be good crowd pleasing attractions. I especially liked the Prehistoric Waters addition- it seemed to fill an empty niche in the SeaWorld emphasis on educational entertainment. Your idea of adding a hotel is a good conclusion to your five-year plan.

Your five year plan was realistic, a bit conservative but doable. I'm not sure if it is aggressive enough to totally turn SeaWorld around, but it was a good start for the SeaWorld chain to consider.

Edited: August 23, 2015, 6:30 PM


Once again, thanks to everyone for your fantastic proposals. This was definitely one of the more experimental challenges this season and I'm glad we got such great results.

As a reminder, Andy chose to use his real life pass in this challenge. He has received a score of 0 points, but will not be eliminated. Unfortunately, we still must eliminate someone. Now, here are the results...

1st: Tie...Jeff Elliott & Keith Schneider - 26.7 points
3rd: Douglas Hindley - 21.7 points
4th: DPCC inc. - 13.3 points
5th: Karina Bhattacharya - 11.7 points

I am terribly sorry that I have to do this, but unfortunately rules are rules. Karina, you have received the lowest score in this challenge and are hereby eliminated from Theme Park Apprentice 7. With that, your shot at the title has come to an end. I would like to thank you for playing and hope you've enjoyed the experience. I encourage you to continue following the competition, either as a spectator or as an unofficial competitor, and to consider trying again next time.

For everyone else, here are the cumulative standings.

1st: Douglas Hindley - 111.9 points
2nd: Keith Schneider - 111.3 points
3rd: Jeff Elliott - 107.9 points
4th: Andy Teoh - 78.5 points
5th: Karina Bhattacharya - 72.1 points
6th: DPCC inc. - 52.5 points

That is an extremely close race for first place. We are now entering the endgame. Only two challenges remain, and only three spots are available in the final. Remember, Challenge 6 is double elimination, and the only way to guarantee your safety is to finish 1st in that challenge. Three of you will move on, and the other two will fall short. If you haven't yet, you better bring your A-game, because skating by is not going to work here.

For any further discussion of this challenge, please use the Chatter thread as this thread will not be regularly monitored beyond this point.

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